Need to Know Real Estate Lingo

Searching for a new home is difficult. Potential buyers often have to balance their wants with their needs and try to prioritize factors like location, price, and size.

Searching for a new home is difficult. Potential buyers often have to balance their wants with their needs and try to prioritize factors like location, price, and size. What many house hunters don’t think about during their search is how complicated the process can get after you find the perfect home. That’s when the paperwork starts and a flood of confusing terminology begins. To help you talk the talk, we’ve broken down some of the most commonly used real estate lingo you might hear during the process.

Appraisal: An impartial estimate of the value of a home that is prepared by a licensed appraiser and based on data from comparable homes and the appraiser’s walk-through. A mortgage company will not give the buyer a loan without an appraisal, and the seller typically pays for it.

Buyer’s Market: This exists when homes for sale outnumber buyers. Homes sit on the market longer because supply is greater than demand, and prices will tend to drop.

Closing: A closing is where the buyer, seller, both real estate agents and the lender meet. But attendees may vary depending upon your situation. During this time, all of the documents necessary for transfer of home ownership are reviewed and signed.

Closing Costs: Fees associated with the purchase of a home that are due at the end of the sales transaction. Fees may include the appraisal, the home inspection, and a title search, a pest inspection and more. Closing costs often range between one to three percent of the selling price of the home.

Comps: You hear this term frequently on TV. Comps are homes that have sold within the past six months in the same neighborhood. Their selling prices are used to determine comparable home values.

Contingencies: Conditions written into a home purchase contract that protect the buyer just in case something happens with financing, the home inspection, etc.

Earnest Money: A deposit made to a seller, so that the buyer is held accountable for buying the home. The money gives the buyer time to complete all necessary tasks before closing.

Escrow Account: An account the buyer/homeowner funds each month that is used to pay for property taxes and insurance.

Equity: How much of your home you actually own or how much of the principal on the loan you’ve paid off.

Fixed-rate Mortgage: There are two types of loans: the fixed-rate and the adjustable-rate mortgage. In a fixed-rate mortgage, the interest rate stays the same throughout the life of the loan.

Home Inspection: An examination of the condition of a home, so that the buyer is aware of any potential or existing problems. Home inspections are conducted by trained and certified inspectors.

In Escrow: A period of time after a buyer has made an offer on a home and a seller has accepted. During this time, the home is inspected and appraised and the title searched for liens, etc.

Pre-approval: When a bank assesses your income, assets and other data to determine a loan amount you qualify for. A real estate agent will often request a pre-approval before you put an offer on the house.

Seller’s Market: This is the reverse of a buyer’s market; there are more people interested in buying houses than there are houses for sale. This makes housing prices rise.
Short Sale: The sale of a home by an owner who owes more than the house is worth.The owner’s bank must approve a lower list price before the home can be sold.

Walk-through: A buyer’s final inspection of a home before closing.
While studying the above definitions is a great way to familiarize yourself with the home-buying process, don’t hesitate to contact any of our real estate professionals if you have questions about anything we did or did not cover.

Four Reasons to Become a Licensed Real Estate Agent

Have you ever thought of having a career in real estate? If so, you have probably imagined some of the fantastic personal and financial benefits that can come from being an agent. While there are countless reasons why people want to sell houses, we’ve listed four of the most popular for anyone curious about becoming a real estate agent.
1. Be Your Own Boss
Real estate agents are not confined to a desk from nine to four. With so much affordable technology, your office can be almost anywhere you want it to be. Agents’ hours depend more on the needs and availability of clients and customers than on the strict time frames you often find in office jobs. The real estate market is relatively flexible, which is great if you have kids, or enjoy other pursuits. Agents can set their own schedules to make room for any number of obligations or outside interests.
2. Quick Career Entry
Getting your real estate license can be done quickly. Many states have an age requirement that you must meet. Also, you must take the real estate pre-licensing course from an accredited real estate licensing school and pass your state’s required courses and exam. There are many different programs you can take online, but make sure any institution you are considering meets all of your state’s requirements.
3. Earning Potential
Real estate agent compensation is different than a salaried or wage-paying position. Since an agent’s earnings are commission-based, your income is often based on the energy you put into the job. Your commissions are typically paid by the property sellers and are negotiable by law. Most commissions range from 3 percent to 7 percent for residential sales, depending on your region. That commission is split between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. This is a common example of how your compensation may work as an agent, and every firm will have its own compensation structure.
4. Lifelong Learning Opportunities
Markets, cultures, style trends, demographics, and industries are always changing. Being a real estate agent doesn’t limit your knowledge to just the housing market. You will also learn a lot about economics, regulations, construction, design, appraisal, marketing, and negotiations. Agents are always learning new skills and building on their techniques and processes.

Five Reasons to Work with a Licensed Real Estate Agent

The internet has enough information to turn almost any beginner into an experienced do-it-yourselfer. Have a running toilet? Check out a couple of YouTube videos, and the next thing you know you are replacing the float, flapper, chain, and now have a perfectly quiet toilet. Never planned a dinner party? Stop by Pinterest, and your guests will think you hired Martha Stewart. But while the web has great tools to assist with buying or selling a house, it cannot provide the skills you will require from an experienced licensed real estate agent. 

1. Neighborhood Knowledge
If you are looking to buy a home, you may know what neighborhood you want to search in. You may even have friends or family who live there and can provide you with helpful information. But an experienced local agent has likely sold homes in that area. They know the market from start to finish. They are aware of comparable prices and have access to homes that are available but have not gone on the market yet, the information you will not find on the internet. 

2. Convenience and Access
Looking for the perfect home is time-consuming, even when you only consider the time you take to go look at potential homes. Now, imagine you don’t have an agent who is in charge of contacting the listing agent, setting up a time for you to tour the home, acquiring access to the house, and is a trusted agent who can make sure everything in the house is left as is. If you are arranging all of the previously mentioned necessities yourself, you are adding a lot of time to your search.

3. Negotiating 
You may have negotiated $20 off that used bike you bought off Craigslist. But negotiating the price of a house takes a lot of experience and knowledge. A seller can reject a potential buyer's offer for any reason, including just because they don’t like you for some reason. An agent communicates your needs for you and won’t let any issues a buyer or seller might have from getting too personal and ruining the deal. Also, an agent will help draw up a purchase agreement that allows enough time for inspections, contingencies, and anything else that's crucial to your particular needs.

4. Contracts
Buying or selling a home requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. Agents have the expertise to not only do this work for you but also the training to do it properly with the oversight of their agency. Buying or selling a house is a transaction where delays or mistakes can have serious financial consequences. Trying to sell or buy a home without an agent is like trying to represent yourself in court – a real gamble.  

5. Fiduciary Responsibility 
An agent is a fiduciary of the client, which means they are legally obligated to act in their clients’ best interests. A short list of those responsibilities includes the following. 

Accounting: The agent must account for all funds entrusted to them and not commingle (combine) client/customer funds with their personal and/or business funds.

Care: The agent must use all of their skills to the best of their ability on behalf of the client.

Confidentiality: The agent must keep any confidential information given to them by their client, especially information that may be damaging to the client in a negotiation.
Disclosure: The agent must disclose to the client any information they receive that may benefit the client’s position in a negotiation.

Loyalty: The agent owes undivided loyalty to the client and puts the client’s interests above their own.

Duty: The agent must obey all lawful orders that the client gives them.

While it may seem like something you can do on your own, buying or selling a house is a complex process in which you deserve the help of an experienced professional to ensure your happiness and success. 

What to Do When You Inherit Real Estate

When you buy or sell a home, you are taking part in one of the biggest financial transactions you’ll ever make. Though certainly rewarding from either side, the entire process can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining. But what happens when this duty is given to you? What happens when you inherit a property? Well, for starters, things can get even more emotionally-charged and complicated.

Basically, when you inherit a piece of real estate, you are faced with three options: you can move into it and make it your own; you can rent it out and become a landlord; or, you can sell it to someone else. Despite this limited number of options, deciding what to do with a property you’ve inherited is not always easy.

If you move in…
Depending on the type of home and location, if you decide to move into a home you inherit, you could be incurring homeowner association fees. You’ll also be picking up property taxes and any maintenance expenses. If there is a current mortgage, you’ll also be inheriting that payment.

If you rent it…
Like choosing to move into a home you inherit, if you decide to rent it out, you’ll also be responsible for maintenance costs and property taxes. But those are fees you could pass on your potential tenants. If the home has a mortgage, renting it out could be a good way to cover the monthly payment.  

If you sell it…
Selling a home you’ve inherited is a good way to avoid picking up an extra mortgage payment and taxes. But it does come with some upfront costs, including making any needed repairs. You also could be responsible for paying closing costs, real estate fees and capital gains taxes.

If you decide to sell a home you’ve inherited, you’ll also need to make sure the homeowner’s insurance and all utilities are paid. Finally, you should know that when you do sell the home, you could be taxed on any gains you’ve made on the home’s price since the time you inherited it.

What information can help you decide which route to take when you inherit a property? Here are four questions to consider:

1. What role do my emotions play in this sale?
If you’ve inherited a family member’s home, you might have many memories associated with the property. Sorting through those feelings could make your decision process even harder, but you need to consider how you’ll feel – no matter which decision you make.

2. Is there a mortgage on the property?
If the property you inherit is not paid off, the mortgage payment could dictate what you decide to do with a home. Depending on the type of mortgage, you might be responsible for agreeing to the current terms, paying in full or selling the property. Alternatively, the home could be paid off by the estate.

3. Is the home in need of repairs?
As a rule, when you inherit a home, you should get a home inspection. Yes—even for your grandmother’s home, where you spent a good part of your childhood. A home inspection will give you a good baseline for any repairs the home might need. Take this question a step further and hire a housekeeper to prep an inherited home for its next steps.

4. Are there any other stakeholders involved?
Sometimes a piece of real estate can be left to one or more siblings. In this case, it is not only one person’s choice when it comes to deciding what to do with a home. Possible scenarios include one sibling buying out the other, or two or more siblings deciding to sell or rent the property and splitting the profits. Unfortunately, if you cannot agree on the best choice, you could have to take legal action to come to a compromise.

Have you recently inherited a home, but don’t know what to do next? Let us help! Contact a trusted Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty agent today.

10 Traits of Successful Real Estate Agents

We recently shared some news that might have you considering a new career in real estate. If you’re already on that path or you know you’re ready to get started, today we’re offering a few tips about how you can be the very best agent out there.

You see, there are a few things that top real estate agents have in common. Here are 10 traits of successful real estate agents:

1. Interest in Helping Others
Whether an agent is helping a first-time buyer purchase a new home, or helping a seller to quickly sell a home to move for an irresistible career opportunity, real estate agents are in the business of helping people realize their next great adventures. If you have an interest in helping people make one of the biggest transactions of their lives, you might be successful in real estate.

2. Interest in Houses and Architecture
You don’t have to be a construction expert or have the knowledge of a home inspector, but if you are interested in the features that make a home unique, like style of home, type of flooring, and other decor details, as a real estate agent, you can help sellers promote their home's best features. Likewise, by being able to point out certain aspects of a home, you can help buyers find the home that is best for them. 

3. Great Communication Skills
Success in real estate is all about how you talk to people. From your clients to the service professionals that assist with inspections and home repairs, excellent communication skills will help you thrive in the industry. If you love talking to people – and we mean all types of people – you might be set for a great career in real estate.   

4. Savvy Social Media Skills
In today's real estate market, it is not only about face-to-face communication. In fact, a strong social media presence is vital for top agents. The truth is that many buyers begin their home searches online. Marketing on social media helps top agents attract those buyers. It also helps agents to network with other agents and prospective clients. 

5. Great Organizational Skills
From keeping track of showings and open houses to coordinating closings and other meetings, real estate agents must be organized. This skill is not only one that will make you a top agent, but it is basically a requirement for the role. The real estate industry is fast-paced, so keeping things organized at all times is a must for agents.  

6. Good Time-Management Skills
For real estate agents, time-management skills go hand in hand with organizational skills – and for similar reasons. Because agents are constantly on the go, they need to be the masters of their own schedules, along with their clients' schedules at times. Managing time helps top agents excel on even the busiest of days. 

7. Excellent Ability to Multitask
On top of time management and organization, real estate agents need to be able to do multiple things at once sometimes. From answering calls or holding meetings on the road to scheduling showings or closings during what might have otherwise been "free" time, top real estate agents seem to be able to do it all at once. 

8. Keen Negotiating Skills
This is an ever-so-important skill set for real estate agents. Every seller wants to get the most for their home. Every buyer wants to strike a great deal on the home of their dreams. By negotiating sales contracts with other professionals, top agents are able to help each party accomplish those goals. 

9. Honesty
Buyers and sellers demand a lot of time from their agents, they ask a lot of questions about the process, they have high expectations for their transactions. Top real estate agents help their clients however they can. But sometimes, simply being honest with clients throughout the entire process is the best way to win them over. An honest agent earns repeat business and excellent referrals from former clients. 

10. A Sense of Humor
Because the real estate industry is so fast-paced and always changing, real estate agents need to be able to take things in stride. Every day and every transaction might not always go exactly as you have it planned. Top agents are able to roll with the punches – and do it with a smile on their face! 

Think you have what it takes to be successful as a real estate agent? Join our team. Contact us today to learn more

New Year, New Career: 5 Reasons to Consider a Career in Real Estate

The end of January is upon us, which serves as a good reminder of all those well-intended resolutions we set for the new year. Do you have your sights set on a professional move this year? And, no, we’re not talking about relocating for your job. Instead, we’re talking about starting an entirely new career path.

If embarking on a new career is on your agenda for 2019, we can think of more than a few reasons why the real estate industry could be the move for you (pun intended!). Here are five reasons why you should consider a career in real estate:

1. You are your own boss.
Love to work from home, but don’t have that flexibility in your current 9–5? When you’re a real estate agent, you can work from your home office on a regular basis. Yes, you’ll be showing homes and helping buyers and sellers in other ways, but there is no one to tell you that you need to be in a designated office space every day you’re on the job as an agent. 

2. You can set your own hours.
Not only can you work from home when you have a career in real estate, but you also are able to determine your daily work schedule. You’ll schedule showings and open houses during various hours of the day or on the weekends. As a real estate professional, you won’t need to worry about a designated start and end time!

3. Your earning potential is unlimited.
Locked into a job where your earning potential has peaked? Real estate could be the industry that helps you recognize your true earning potential. A commission-based salary means that the sky is the limit when it comes to earning. In real estate, the more transactions you complete, the more money you make. Don’t set boundaries when it comes to what you can achieve.

4. You are helping someone with every transaction you make.
Don’t we all want a job where it feels like we’re helping to make a difference? As a real estate agent, you truly are. Helping someone buy or sell a home means helping them make what is potentially the biggest transaction of their lives. Being a part of that is not something to minimize. As a real estate professional, you are destined to impact each client you work with.

5. You don’t need years of schooling to be an expert.
For many professional positions, a four-year degree is required, and some professions require even more schooling. The real estate industry does not require a bachelor’s degree or prior training that comes from any particular field. There are a few required courses for real estate professionals, a licensure exam and a wealth of on-the-job experience. And, let’s not forget about that unlimited opportunity for success despite any amount of schooling!

We’ve given you five great reasons to consider a career in real estate. If you still have some questions about making a professional move to this fast-paced industry, contact us today!

Back-to-School Basics: The A-B-Cs of Becoming a Real Estate Agent

Pencils and books are bought, lunches are packed and this year’s slew of back-to-school ads have pretty much everyone looking stylish and at least attempting to do the floss! Yep, from pre-K to post-doctoral, most students across the country are back in class—or at least they’re more than ready to be there.

Are you feeling the urge to hit the books and head back to class too? This school year, a career change could be your next chapter—and real estate is the perfect place to find your niche. Just think… a flexible schedule where you’re in charge of your hours and earning potential. That’s what you’ll find with a career in real estate.

If you are interested in pursuing a professional career in the real estate industry, we’re giving you a few basic tips on how to break into the business. Here are the A-B-Cs of how you can become a real estate agent:

A. Meet the requirements.
It is possible for most adults to pursue a rewarding career in real estate. In fact, as long as you’re 18 years of age or older—and you have the equivalent of a high school diploma—you can do what it takes to become a professional real estate agent.

B. Don’t miss a class.
As with most professions, you’ll need to hit the books in order to become a professional real estate agent. There are two 30-hour courses you need to take before qualifying for the licensure exam to become a real estate agent in Pennsylvania.

C. Reveal any skeletons.
When it comes to real estate, in addition to listing homes on the market, you’ll be putting your name out there too. That means you’ll want to reveal any history you may have. You’ll need to pass a criminal background check before earning your real estate license.

D. Make the grade.
Not only do you need to take the required classes, but you also need to pass Pennsylvania’s state licensure exam before becoming a professional real estate agent. What is passing? Answering 75% or more of the exam questions correctly!

E. Apply for your license.
Once you reach this step, you’re almost there. After you pass Pennsylvania’s licensure exam, pay the necessary fee and apply for your real estate license. What comes next? You begin building your business by marketing to the region’s home buyers and sellers!

At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty, we pride ourselves in helping real estate agents launch their careers, grow their businesses and thrive in today’s market. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in real estate, let us help you get started today

Five of the Best Apps for Real Estate Agents

For a real estate agent who is always on the go, keeping track of numerous showings, closings and other appointments while constantly communicating with clients and other professionals can be quite difficult. Luckily, there is an app for that. In fact, there are quite a few mobile apps out there that can make it much easier for real estate agents to juggle multiple responsibilities—and deliver stellar service. If you’ve got your smartphone in tow, using apps can help you stay connected no matter where you are.

Here are five of the best apps for real estate agents:

1. DocuSign
Thanks to this app, real estate agents no longer need to schedule an appointment to have contracts signed. Instead, agents can simply send their clients documents via email and have them signed electronically. With DocuSign, a task that used to take days can take mere hours or even minutes. Talk about a major time saver!  

2. RPR Mobile
This app was created to help real estate professionals search properties and view local market activity. It also allows agents to gather greater details, like tax information and historical data, to create reports for clients. RPR Mobile was tailor-made for real estate professionals and pretty much allows you to complete your work—from anywhere!

3. Facebook
By now, you surely know the value that social media can provide for your business. With tools to manage ads, post listings and communicate live with an audience at any time, Facebook is a strategic tool for any real estate agent. Don’t underestimate the power of this app, perhaps once only used to connect with old friends or roommates. Use Facebook to fuel your business!

4. RealScout
This agent-friendly app is a great way for real estate professionals to connect with new clients and make sure they’re sending information about properties that clients are interested in—at all the right times. RealScout helps agents send branded information to clients to keep communication flowing throughout the real estate process.

5. Zapier
Talk about an app that can help you multitask! Zapier allows real estate agents to connect their web apps and create a workflow that cuts down on paperwork and busywork! Once you’ve created a workflow, you can rely on Zapier to help you add new leads to your email subscription list or disperse buyer and seller information for you—plus a whole lot more. How is that for multitasking?

When it comes to thriving in the busy real estate industry, embrace the technology that is tailored to help you. In the case of these five mobile tools for real estate agents, you’ll be app-solutely glad you did!

Buyers and Sellers: 10 Reasons You Need a Real Estate Agent

The school year is winding down, which means that soon, many more motivated home buyers will be entering the real estate market with high hopes of settling into a new home before another school year begins. For sellers, that’s great news—as long as they’re properly marketing their home. For other buyers—an influx in competition could be detrimental to finding the right home.

What can buyers and sellers do to put themselves in the best position possible in a busy market? Work with an awesome real estate agent, of course! If you’re not convinced you need professional help to buy or sell your home, here are 10 good reasons you really do need a real estate agent:

1. You’re Top Priority
When you work with a real estate agent, helping you buy or sell your home is their main objective. After all, that’s how they excel in their chosen career!

2. Education
Speaking of their chosen careers, real estate agents know how to buy and sell homes, because they made the choice to learn how to so—and they do it all the time. Put their professional education and expertise to work for you.

3. Local Knowledge
Not only do agents have a firm knowledge of the real estate market, they also have a great grasp on the area where they help people buy and sell homes. From available homes to eateries to recreation and more, your agent may be an area expert on a lot of topics!

4. Professional Connections
Area attractions aren’t the only things real estate agents have the inside scoop on. They also have a list of lenders, inspectors, contractors and other professionals whose help you may need during your real estate transaction.

5. Pricing
When you’re selling a home, agents can help you set the right price for your home from the start. If you’re buying a home, they’re right there to make sure the home you’re interested in is priced fairly. How can they be so sure? They can complete a comparative market analysis for you of other homes that are listed or have recently sold.

6. Showings
For sellers, real estate agents not only arrange showings, but they also show your home until it sells. For buyers, agents arrange for you to visit each and every home you’re interested in. They also accompany you to each home you want to see.

7. Negotiations
The last thing you want to do when you’re buying or selling a home is lose at the negotiating table. An experienced real estate agent can help you make an offer, counter one, accept an offer – they’re your expert for each and every aspect of negotiating.

8. Paperwork
Buying and selling a home comes with a decent amount of paperwork. Are you prepared to deal with mountains of reading and signatures? Your real estate agent can help you get through it all a lot easier.

9. Honesty
Whether you’re buying or selling a home, your real estate agent is someone you can trust. For sellers, your agent will give you an honest opinion about pricing your home, staging it and even leaving it—for showings! Buyers can rely on agents to tell them if their needs and wants are realistic, if their offer is reasonable and a whole lot of other things. Agents want to be honest with you and make you happy. Why? So that you refer them to others!

10. Your Time
If you don’t think you need a real estate agent for one of these reasons, how about for all of them? It takes a lot of time and energy to buy or sell a home—you can pretty much double that if you plan to go it alone. With a real estate agent’s help, your home buying or selling experience is sure to go more smoothly.

Readying to get the buying or selling process started? Let us help!

Five Must-Have Apps for Real Estate Agents

Eager home sellers are not the only people gearing up for a bustling spring real estate season. Real estate agents everywhere are preparing for what is typically one of their busiest times of the year.

With multiple listings, clients and other professional contacts, how can a real estate agent keep organized? Even the real estate agents who have mastered answering emails over lunch and scheduling showings from the road may need a little extra assistance during peak seasons.

Where can a busy real estate agent turn for help? To your smartphone, of course! There are some pretty awesome apps to help agents with everything from generating leads to marketing homes.

Here are five of the best apps for real estate agents:

Open Home Pro

Are you finding it is too much work to have each open house visitor sign in and complete a form, only so you must go back and enter their data? This app lets open house attendees sign in digitally. It also automatically stores their information, saving you lots of time on entering data after a busy open house. Open Home Pro will even help you follow up by sending attendees emails or text messages.


How do you coordinate getting your clients to sign all of the paperwork that goes along with buying or selling a home? Gone are the days of signing paper copies. Realistically, gone are the days of signing documents and scanning them to send through email—at least when it comes to this app. Docusign allows users to sign needed paperwork electronically. It even helps real estate agents manage transactions.


It’s no secret that real estate agents spend a lot of time in their cars, especially when you have multiple showings in one day! Getting to a listing or the office on time is super important, that’s where Waze comes in. It gives you up-to-the-minute traffic conditions that will help save you from sitting in traffic.


Create professional, branded videos in minutes! With Videolicious, real estate professionals can upload photos or videos, add voiceover, music, text, logos and more. The easy-to-use app walks you through step-by-step until you’re video is complete. Best yet, you can easily share the video to social media or send via email.


Looking for a way to stand out on social media? Canva can help! This easy-to-use app lets you create beautiful, professional graphics in a breeze. You can make collages, overlay text on images, insert your logo, add borders and frames and much more! Not the creative type? No problem! The app includes thousands of templates that can be easily formatted with your content. Plus, the templates are perfectly sized for social media!

If you want to impress prospective buyers and sellers during a busy market, you’ve got to be on your toes. So, embrace some of the latest technology! With real estate apps like these, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them.

Celebrate National Trivia Day with These 10 Real Estate Fun Facts

Today, Jeopardy fans everywhere are celebrating National Trivia Day. Of course, we couldn’t let real estate enthusiasts miss out on the fun! Thanks to Inman and REtipster, we found enough real estate fun facts to win a round of Double Jeopardy! Here are 10 you’ll want to share around the water cooler today:

1. How could we not start out with Berkshire Hathaway’s very own Chairman and CEO, Warren Buffett? He may be one of the wealthiest people in the world, but he still lives in the same Nebraska home he bought 60 years ago! It’s cost at the time? Just over $30,000! 

2. Remember our recent tip to add some brass accents to your home? We’ve got another reason why you should. Metals like brass are antimicrobial and can kill bacteria… so, instead of cleaning your brass doorknob, just let it self-clean!

3. From doorknobs to doors—what does the color of your front door say about you? In some countries, it tells visitors whether or not you have a mortgage! Scottish homeowners are said to paint their front door red when they are mortgage-free.

4. On the other end of the mortgage spectrum, this fact was not so fun for those going through it in 2009. That year, the U.S. had more foreclosures than marriages. Yikes!

5. Even during those bleak times, you could still find affordable real estate… if you were willing to travel to a faraway place. Apparently, an acre of land on the moon costs about $30—less than most dinner dates!

6. Of course, travelling to the moon to find a mortgage is better than turning to a life of crime, right? Well, not if you were Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd—or should we say Robin Hood? He used to rob banks and destroy mortgage documents to relieve homeowners of their debts!

7. Ok, we all know the market bounced back and homebuyers started building again. But, it didn’t happen overnight—unlike some builders in China, who are able to construct 30-story skyscrapers in just half a month!

8. Those talented builders may be able to construct impressive skyscrapers in merely weeks, but could they compete with the architect of New York’s Chrysler Building? He secretly built the tower’s spire and added it at the very end to win a “world’s tallest building” competition. Talk about keeping up with the Joneses!

9. Well, you may be trying to keep up with whatever your neighbors are doing, but people living in developing countries may not even be able to keep up with one room in your home. Some homes in these countries are no more than 75 square feet!

10. Finally, skyscraper or modest abode, it wouldn’t matter where you lived if one of the Great Lakes flooded. You’d be out of luck without flood insurance! Lake Superior could flood homes in both North and South America up to one foot high.

If you liked our top 10, continue to celebrate National Trivia Day. Find these and more real estate fun facts at Inman and REtipster.

Tips for Part-time Real Estate Agents to Find Full-Time Success

The changing seasons could have you thinking about making some other changes in your life. Perhaps you’re considering the prospects of a career change. While certainly exciting, diving into a new profession can also be terrifying! If you’re looking for a bit of a safety net before making a total change, a professional career in real estate could be exactly what you’re seeking.

In fact, beginning a career in real estate as a part-time agent is not uncommon. First and foremost, it can be nice to have the financial security of a full-time career when you’re a new agent learning the industry. Some agents find luck and close a deal shortly after they pass their licensure exams. Frankly, some don’t. Having a second income to support your new venture can help give you the financial peace of mind and confidence you may need to pursue your real estate dreams.

Another reason that starting out as a part-time real estate agent can benefit new agents is that it gives them a great opportunity to build up their reputation. Taking a slower step into a real estate career can ensure you’re not taking on too many clients at once. This way, each client gets the very best customer service you can give. What will satisfied clients give you? Excellent reviews and referrals! And, in the real estate industry, that word-of-mouth advertising goes a long way.

However, as a part-time agent’s success grows, so do the demands on their time. This is where it can become difficult to balance two careers. It can be hard to return emails and phone calls in a timely manner when your time is divided between competing priorities. In addition, it can be difficult to find balance at home after working a full day in one career, then shifting gears to meet buyers’ and sellers’ needs during the evening.

Some part-time real estate agents choose to work as part of a team, so they can be sure they’re providing clients with superior customer service despite their limited time. This is a great option, provided the part-time agents understand they may also be sharing commissions with their team members.

Ultimately, many part-time real estate agents decide to make the transition to become full-time agents when the time is right for them. That time differs for every agent, but some indicators may include:

  • Increased financial security stemming directly from your real estate transactions
  • A growing client base made up of satisfied buyers and sellers—and their referrals
  • Lack of time to devote to two professional careers

The bottom line when it comes to a part-time career in real estate is that it is a great way to begin a journey into the industry. It just so happens—that journey often leads into a fulfilling full-time career!

If you’re interested in making the transition to a career in real estate, know that you can survive (and thrive) whether you start out as a part-time agent or dive right into a full-time position. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty, we can help you get that exciting career started. Learn how you can begin a career in real estate today.

10 Things to Consider Before Investing in a Rental Property

A second income based on a property you own sounds great, but how do you get there, especially if you’re barely more than a first-time homebuyer? Very carefully, of course! Rental properties can have certain payoffs, but they also come with certain costs—and, we’re not just talking about financials here.

If you’re interested in buying a rental property, you should consider a few things first. Here are 10 tips to get you started: 

1. Make sure you’re good with financial matters. Lenders will review your personal finances when you go to purchase a rental property, but that is just the start. Once you own the property, you’ll have to consider the amount of money it may take to maintain it. You’ll also need to determine how much you’ll be able to charge for rent and if that amount will cover your mortgage costs. If you’re not able to do those calculations alone, enlist some help to crunch the numbers before you decide to buy. 


2. Expect a hefty down payment. When you apply for a second mortgage, you’ll find that the stakes are a bit higher. Typically, a 3% down payment is simply not going to cut it. Make sure you’ve got enough money saved up to show lenders your commitment to taking on another mortgage.


3. And a higher interest rate. In addition to putting more money down on a second home, you’re also likely to face a higher interest rate. That is, unless you plan to pay for your newly-acquired rental property with cash!


4. Be ready to put in extra time. Once you seal the deal and make a rental purchase, be ready to take on the role of landlord. Not only will you responsible for collecting that monthly rent check from your tenants, but you’ll also be responsible for taking care of any maintenance issues that come up during a tenant’s lease. If you don’t have the time to handle those tasks on your own, you’ll need to budget for a property manager or service professional that you can keep on call.


5.Don’t start with a fixer upper. If you’re not able to handle regular maintenance tasks, you won’t want to consider buying a rental property that will require more work from the start. When you’re looking at rental properties, it can be easy to go for the cheapest option. However, you should look for a property that is structurally sound, so you won’t have to put more effort and money in up front to get it ready to rent.


6. Don’t expect your 2nd property to be your first income. When you’re looking to purchase a rental property, don’t plan for it to be your primary source of income. Not at first, at least. Instead, keep a full-time job and enjoy the benefits of some extra money on the side while you figure out how to make the most of your rental property.


7. Ask for help. When you go to buy a home (of any kind), your friends and family are bound to offer advice. Instead of shuddering away from what friends and family are trying to say as you purchase a rental property and become a landlord, rely on their advice to help you find the best area contractors, property managers or even inspectors.


8. Carefully screen your tenants. You can’t choose your own neighbors, but when it comes to owning a rental property, you absolutely can choose your tenants! Make sure you’re asking the right questions, so you can find a tenant that will take care of your property like it is their own! Set high standards from the get-go!


9. Consider the neighborhood. As with any home purchase, location is key when it comes to a rental property. Not only will the location affect the type of tenants you draw in, it also will affect how much you can charge for rent. If you’re buying a home in an area that you’re not too familiar with, check around to make sure it is safe. Making sure the area has access to local amenities and transportation options also may help you attract renters.


10. Don’t be discouraged! Taking on a second mortgage for a rental property and becoming a landlord may require a lot of responsibility, but it can come with great reward! If you’re ready to invest in a rental property, start by working with a trusted real estate professional who can help you find the right home.


Start your rental property search today!

10 Things to Consider Before Investing in a Rental Property

A second income based on a property you own sounds great, but how do you get there, especially if you’re barely more than a first-time homebuyer? Very carefully, of course! Rental properties can have certain payoffs, but they also come with certain costs—and, we’re not just talking about financials here.

If you’re interested in buying a rental property, you should consider a few things first. Here are 10 tips to get you started: 

1. Make sure you’re good with financial matters. Lenders will review your personal finances when you go to purchase a rental property, but that is just the start. Once you own the property, you’ll have to consider the amount of money it may take to maintain it. You’ll also need to determine how much you’ll be able to charge for rent and if that amount will cover your mortgage costs. If you’re not able to do those calculations alone, enlist some help to crunch the numbers before you decide to buy. 


2. Expect a hefty down payment. When you apply for a second mortgage, you’ll find that the stakes are a bit higher. Typically, a 3% down payment is simply not going to cut it. Make sure you’ve got enough money saved up to show lenders your commitment to taking on another mortgage.


3. And a higher interest rate. In addition to putting more money down on a second home, you’re also likely to face a higher interest rate. That is, unless you plan to pay for your newly-acquired rental property with cash!


4. Be ready to put in extra time. Once you seal the deal and make a rental purchase, be ready to take on the role of landlord. Not only will you responsible for collecting that monthly rent check from your tenants, but you’ll also be responsible for taking care of any maintenance issues that come up during a tenant’s lease. If you don’t have the time to handle those tasks on your own, you’ll need to budget for a property manager or service professional that you can keep on call.


5.Don’t start with a fixer upper. If you’re not able to handle regular maintenance tasks, you won’t want to consider buying a rental property that will require more work from the start. When you’re looking at rental properties, it can be easy to go for the cheapest option. However, you should look for a property that is structurally sound, so you won’t have to put more effort and money in up front to get it ready to rent.


6. Don’t expect your 2nd property to be your first income. When you’re looking to purchase a rental property, don’t plan for it to be your primary source of income. Not at first, at least. Instead, keep a full-time job and enjoy the benefits of some extra money on the side while you figure out how to make the most of your rental property.


7. Ask for help. When you go to buy a home (of any kind), your friends and family are bound to offer advice. Instead of shuddering away from what friends and family are trying to say as you purchase a rental property and become a landlord, rely on their advice to help you find the best area contractors, property managers or even inspectors.


8. Carefully screen your tenants. You can’t choose your own neighbors, but when it comes to owning a rental property, you absolutely can choose your tenants! Make sure you’re asking the right questions, so you can find a tenant that will take care of your property like it is their own! Set high standards from the get-go!


9. Consider the neighborhood. As with any home purchase, location is key when it comes to a rental property. Not only will the location affect the type of tenants you draw in, it also will affect how much you can charge for rent. If you’re buying a home in an area that you’re not too familiar with, check around to make sure it is safe. Making sure the area has access to local amenities and transportation options also may help you attract renters.


10. Don’t be discouraged! Taking on a second mortgage for a rental property and becoming a landlord may require a lot of responsibility, but it can come with great reward! If you’re ready to invest in a rental property, start by working with a trusted real estate professional who can help you find the right home.


Start your rental property search today!

Can You Make the Grade? 10 Reasons Real Estate Agents Fail

Many students are still getting back into the swing of things this fall semester, but we’re ready to hand out some grades—and, failing ones at that! It may sound harsh, but today we’re taking a look at some of the reasons that agents just don’t make the grade in the real estate industry.

Here are 10 of the top reasons that real estate agents fail:

1. They don’t prospect. When you first start out as a real estate agent, it can be difficult to get comfortable reaching out to prospective clients. Though you may not instantly feel at ease on the phone, it is something you’ve got to do to build your client base. Set aside time to reach out to prospective clients each day.

2. They don’t follow up. Once you’ve built up your client base, maintain it! Real estate agents that don’t take the time to follow up with their clients don’t keep their clients; it is as simple as that. When someone is making a major sale or purchase, they want to know they’ve got the support of their trusted real estate agent. Show your clients you’re there for them by following up!

3. They don’t do nights and weekends. Frankly, it is simply not convenient for most prospective buyers to search for homes from the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Real estate agents need to be flexible enough to put in hours on nights and weekends. Showings and open houses just don’t always happen during regular business hours.

4. They don’t play well with others. When it comes to making home sale, several parties are involved. If a real estate agent can’t work well with other agents, lenders, inspectors, appraisers or service professionals, they will have a hard time finding lasting success.

5. They let one bad experience ruin them. When you work in real estate, you’re going to hear the word “no.” Some people will not want to work with you. Some sellers will not accept your buyers’ offers. Some buyers may not even be interested in seeing a home you’ve listed. You may hear “no,” but it only takes one “yes” to get your real estate business going!

6. They don’t work or live in their sphere. While one “yes” may help you get going, it is not going to sustain your business for long. Instead of focusing on all the things you’ll be able to buy when you sell X number of homes, change your mindset to meet your current lifestyle. When you’re not feeling the added pressures of purchases you want or “need” to make, you’ll have an easier time focusing on your career.

7. They don’t invest in marketing. From social media to signs in a front yard, there are so many ways to market yourself in today’s real estate industry. With all of those options, it is imperative that real estate agents make a little investment in getting their name—and their listings—out there. 

8. They are not flexible. When you’re a real estate agent, you’ve got to be able to work from anywhere. That means when you have 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. showings, you’ve got what you need with you to stop anywhere with Wi-Fi to complete a few administrative tasks in between.

9. They don’t have a plan. It is hard to work toward something when you don’t know what that something is. Unless a real estate agent sets clear, achievable goals, it is easy to get sidetracked on the road to success. Work with an experienced agent to set attainable goals when you’re first getting started.

10. They simply don’t believe they can succeed. After reading all of these reasons that real estate agents fail, you may be feeling more insecure than ever. But, don’t! Believing in yourself and your ability to achieve success may be half of the battle when it comes to succeeding in real estate.

At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty, we are excited to help our real estate professionals succeed. Take the next step toward a successful career in real estate by contacting our office today.


Brunch, Baseball & Brews: Spending Father’s Day in Pittsburgh

As if Lord Stanley didn’t bestow an awesome enough honor on many Pittsburgh dads this week, Pittsburgh is full of incredible options for showing Dad that you care on Father’s Day. From baseball to brunches and everything in between, we’ve compiled a list of great ways to spend the day with your dad in Pittsburgh this Father’s Day weekend.   

We still may be celebrating the victorious end of another professional hockey season, but baseball season is in full swing! (pun intended!) This weekend, the Pittsburgh Pirates are playing at home Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So, the whole family can either take Dad out to the ball game or give him a peaceful afternoon out with friends! You can’t go wrong spending the day or night rooting on the Buccos at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.

Maybe your dad is not much of a baseball fan, but he’s no landlubber, either! Take Dad on a delicious cruise through Pittsburgh on the Gateway Clipper Fleet! On Father’s Day, there are all-you-can-eat options for brunch and dinner. Scenic Pittsburgh sights and a delicious meal... sounds like a dream for any dad!

If you think cruising through the city might make Dad a little sea sick, treat him to a five-course dinner on dry land in Pittsburgh. But, make sure to include the brews! Hop Farm Brewing Co. is hosting a dinner and brewery tour on Father’s Day. What dad could turn down the tastes of five courses and five beers?

Maybe your dad would prefer a little bourbon over beer this Father’s Day. He may have to wait an extra week, but you could gift him with tickets to the Muddy Waters Oyster Bar Wild Turkey Bourbon Dinner! Dad is sure to gobble up four great courses and a bourbon tasting!

So, your dad is not too into beer or bourbon, but he is a bit of a wild animal? The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is the perfect place to take him this Father’s Day. The whole family will have ferocious fun and any dad who comes in with his children is admitted for free!

Think you’re running out of ideas or out of time to get your dad a meaningful Father’s Day gift this year? Think again! You can run the World’s Best Dad 5K in Pittsburgh any time this June! You can dedicate this virtual race to your dad and even give him the medal you receive when you’re done. Plus, a portion of registration fees goes to a worthy charity. Doing something good for your health and the community? Dad will be so proud! 

So, we’ve explored some of the best baseball, brunch and even bourbon options in Pittsburgh for this Father’s Day. Now, only one of Dad’s favorites is missing... burgers! You can either treat your dad to a backyard BBQ at your very own Pittsburgh home or take him out to one of Pittsburgh’s many juicy burger joints! Either way, all that grilled greatness is sure to show Dad your gratitude!

To all of the worthy dads in Pittsburgh and around the world from all of us at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty, we hope you have a well-deserved, relaxing Father’s Day weekend!  

10 Tips for Surviving Your First Year in Real Estate

From vacations to barbeques to backyard fun with your kids, it can be easy to get distracted from your career in the summertime. This can be true in the real estate industry, especially if you’re just starting out. When you’re able to make your own schedule, it can be easy to schedule some down time. Instead of getting off track in your real estate career during one of the hottest times in the market, find success this summer!

Here are 10 ways to survive (and thrive) during your first year in real estate:

1. Expect long hours. As a real estate agent, you will have days where you are working from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Frankly, not all prospective buyers are able to go see homes between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. So, agents must cater to their clients’ schedules – even at the expense of their own! So, expect and embrace long hours.

2. Market. Market. Market. Gone are the days of simply plopping a “For Sale” sign in a client’s yard and taking out an ad in the local newspaper. Those tactics may still work, but they should be coupled with aggressive online advertising and social media marketing. Even if you’re not comfortable sharing your personal life on social media, use it to your advantage to promote your real estate career!

3. Set goals. If you don’t have something to work toward, it can be easy to go astray. Start with some easily-attainable goals like attending at least one networking event a month or increasing your online visibility. Once you reach one goal, you’ll be motivated to set and reach another!

4. Go into the office. But, get used to working anywhere and everywhere, too. Give yourself a place that’s a bit quieter than the kitchen island at home, so that you can get work done when you need to. But, you also may have to get used to checking your email and making some calls from the car or the local coffee shop. You’ve got to be flexible as a real estate agent.

5. Have a back-up plan. Even if you hit the ground running, you may not instantly see profits in real estate. When you first start out, it may be a good idea to keep your current profession or have at least six months of income saved up. Then, you won’t feel stress if you don’t immediately see a profit.

6. Find a support system. When you decide to pursue a career in real estate, choose to do so with a company that will provide you with the support you need. Find an experienced agent to manager to coach you. You also should be able to rely on your company to train you on the latest marketing and outreach tools.

7. Build a network. Not only will you need a support system, but you’ll also want to have a network of trusted professionals you can reach out to. We’re talking about other agents, mortgage lenders, home inspectors, contractors and anyone else who may be able to help you assist your clients. Being able to recommend professionals to help your clients will help you gain their trust!

8. Become a local expert. Once you’ve got your network around you, soak in all the details of the area that surrounds you. Learn the schools, restaurants, parks and even the local crime rate. Remember that your clients not only want to know about the available homes in an area, but they also want to know what kinds of things are available around those homes!

9. Keep learning. The real estate market is constantly changing and evolving, so you’ve got to make sure that you are, too. From new marketing techniques to new ways to communicate with your clients, if you want to continue to advance your career, you’ve got to continue to learn!

10. Stay positive. Barely anyone is an expert in any field from day one. So, when you decide to pursue a career in real estate, don’t expect to be an expert at first. Keeping a positive attitude will help you find success in your first year as a real estate agent and far beyond!

Are you ready to embark on an exciting career in real estate? Become a trusted real estate professional with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty.

Why Military Heroes Make Exceptional Real Estate Agents

This month, we’ll pause to celebrate and reflect on all of the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans and the way they have selflessly served to protect the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis. While they are widely recognized for their dedication to our country, we’d also like to point out that once our nation’s veterans are ready to rejoin the civilian workforce, they make some of the very best real estate agents in the industry.

Here are just three of the reasons why veterans, who’ve proudly served our country, also are so well-equipped to serve today’s home buyers and sellers:

1. They’ve Got Integrity. When buyers and sellers are searching for a real estate agent, trust is paramount. Buyers and sellers want someone who they can be sure will represent their wants and needs in each and every transaction. There is no one that will question the integrity of a veteran and for good reason. Integrity is a core value instilled in our military service professionals. So, it is one of the most easily translatable qualifications when a veteran decides to pursue a career in the real estate industry.

2. They’re Decisive. Without question, a veteran’s military training has prepared them to think quickly and take decisive action in any situation. Who doesn’t want that kind of take-charge, can-do attitude on their side when it comes to setting a home price, placing an offer, battling through negotiations on the way to the closing table or completing any other part of the home-buying or home-selling process? Naturally, veterans are more than well-prepared for making the quick, confident decisions that being a successful real estate agent sometimes requires.    

3. They’re Relatable. Around 20% of home buyers and sellers have identified themselves as either veterans or active-duty military service professionals. Who better to advocate for military buyers and sellers than a fellow service member or veteran? Not only are veterans who choose a post-service career in real estate already instantly relatable to that 20% of home buyers and sellers, but they certainly are respected and trusted by the other 80% as well.

It’s pretty obvious why our military heroes make such excellent real estate professionals. However, it is not always so easy for our veterans to transition into the civilian workforce. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty, we try to ease that transition by offering United States Armed Forces Veterans and their spouses a FREE Real Estate Training and Support Program that includes training, licensing, materials and on-going professional support to help successfully launch a career in the real estate industry.

If you are an active military service professional, veteran or spouse that is interested in beginning a fulfilling career in the real estate industry, learn more about our FREE Real Estate Training and Support Program. Contact a local Office Manager or call Judy Gelman at 412-833-7700 today.

Get Down to Business! 10 Habits of Successful Real Estate Agents!

After the long holiday weekend, many American workers may be having a hard time easing back into the work week. But, the satisfied group of successful real estate agents that enjoys determining their own salary and hours – not to mention doing something they absolutely love – are excitedly grasping their opportunity to help more buyers and sellers realize their real estate dreams.

Aside from the friendly smile and instantly-helpful attitude, what do these seemingly born-for real-estate agents look like? Here are 10 habits of successful real estate agents:

1. They have and follow a business plan.

Just because they make their own hours and answer to basically only themselves, does not mean that successful real estate agents operate without a plan. A business plan, that is! Successful real estate agents set goals and a timeline for achieving them. New real estate agents also have the luxury of working with a business coach to establish their business plan.  

2. They take advice from a mentor.

When you get into the real estate business, everyone from your parents to their friend who helped you buy your first home will be more than happy to throw some advice your way. Instead of taking everything in and trying to determine what will work best for you, enlist the help of another trusted agent that you admire and truly – follow their lead! Find out what works for them and make it work for you!

3. They prepare.

Even successful real estate agents may not have started out that way. Earning a successful career in the real estate industry is hard and successful real estate agents will agree; you’ve got to have a plan – before you have a plan! Many real estate agents begin their careers on a part-time basis, continuing to collect a full-time salary or relying on savings until they are ready to go it alone.

4. They continue to learn.

To get into the real estate industry, professionals are required to take a couple of courses and pass a licensure exam. Instead of being satisfied with the status quo, successful real estate agents crave more. They want to continue learning the way the changing market (as well as buyers and sellers) are evolving and they do that by continuing to take the courses that are offered to them!

5. They listen.

A huge part of successfully helping people is listening to what they are looking for. So, in order for a real estate agent to be successful, they’ve got to listen to what their clients want. Whether you’re working with a seller, who refuses to budge on a price or a buyer, who won’t look at a home that doesn’t meet everything on their “want” list – in order to deliver, you’ve got to know what’s most important to those you’re serving.

6. Because they listen, they know what to say.

And, this doesn’t only mean that successful real estate agents have mastered their face-to-face communications with their clients; they even know how to reach out to potential clients! If they’re finding success on social media, successful agents know to keep it coming! When an agent listens to a client’s needs, they’re able to serve them and others in their demographic faster and more effectively.

7. They’re available.

Success in real estate doesn’t only happen Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Many agents find that flexible work schedules not only better service their clients, but also work for them, too. As an agent, you’ve got to make yourself available when your client is. It just doesn’t get any simpler than that.

8. They know where they’re at.

Not only do successful real estate agents listen to and address their clients’ questions; but, they also have answers ready with little to no research. Successful agents have an excellent working knowledge of the area where they live and work. They’re proud of their communities and able to answer questions about area commutes, school districts, recreation, entertainment and more.

9. They know people.

Yes, they know a lot about their areas… including the people who work there. Successful real estate agents have a bevy of trusted service professionals at their disposal, ready to refer to their clients – both buyer and sellers. From inspectors to lenders and everyone in between, successful agents know someone who can help their clients with whatever step of the real estate process they’re on and they’re not afraid to share those contacts.

10. They know that word-of-mouth matters.

And, this is the bottom line, folks. It pays to keep in touch with those you help – both buyers and sellers. No, they may not need your services for a number of years – or even ever again – but, they certainly will be willing to spread the word about what you’ve got to offer. Successful real estate agents know that repeat business is real and that word-of-mouth referrals can be golden!

If you recognize any of these characteristics in yourself, you may have what it takes for a successful career in real estate. Begin your journey today!

How to Become a Real Estate Agent in PA

Now that summer officially has arrived, you may have noticed that your friends or family members who work in the real estate industry may be a little harder to schedule some time with…

 “I’m showing some buyers a few homes on Thursday night…”

“I’ve got an open house on Saturday…”

“I’ve got a closing scheduled around lunch time on Monday…”

Where does that leave you?! If “unfulfilled at work” or “intrigued at what your real estate agent friend does” is your response, maybe it’s time for you to consider a career in real estate.

Summer is a great time to get into the real estate business and becoming a real estate agent in Pennsylvania is a relatively quick and easy process – as long as you’re an enthusiastic, self-motived individual with an interest in making your own hours, determining your own salary and, of course, learning about real estate!

To become a real estate agent in Pennsylvania, you’ve got to pass two 30-hour courses on real estate fundamentals and practices. These courses are offered at various locations around Pittsburgh and in convenient evening sessions that easily accommodate busy schedules.

Following the successful completion of those real estate fundamentals and practices courses, you are eligible to take the state’s real estate licensure exam. A score of 75% or higher on the Pennsylvania State Licensing Exam puts you on the right path to a career in real estate!

After you pass the real estate licensing exam, there are just two more steps to becoming a real estate agent in Pennsylvania. You must complete a criminal background check and apply for your real estate sales license, also submitting the required application fee.

With that, you’re a licensed real estate agent, ready to start serving home buyers and sellers across Pennsylvania, right?! Well, to an extent. Your next step is deciding which professional real estate team is right for you.

At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty, we provide an unbeatable support system to help ensure new agents are working toward real estate success. This support includes new agent training and other services, like free office space and equipment use at one of our 19 Pennsylvania locations. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty agents also enjoy free access to our content management system and intranet, free marketing materials, web listings, professional listing photos and free continuing real estate and management education. On top of that support, the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty management team serves as mentors and our support staff are on-site to assist new agents with one-on-one training to get started.

If the summer season has you warming up to the idea of becoming a real estate agent in Pennsylvania, we’ll be happy to help you get started. In fact, we are now offering real estate classes for just $99! Click here for more information.


Got the Back-to-Work Blues? Here are 10 Signs You May Destined for Real Estate!

With the first full week of 2016 nearly under our belts, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that we’ve almost made it through this seemingly never-ending week that follows the holidays. Sure, you may have hit the snooze button a few extra times and it may have taken a few days to readjust to your morning commute; but, the week is nearly over now.

If your post-holiday back-to-work hangover has been too much to bear, the New Year may be the perfect time for you consider a career in real estate. While you’re busily replying to your overloaded inbox this morning, take a minute to peruse 10 signs that you may be destined for a career in real estate:


You’ve been thinking about a new career. It’s a New Year. Most people may be making resolutions about losing weight or quitting a bad habit. If you’re unhappy with your current career or have been removed from the professional world altogether, a career in real estate could be your perfect resolution. You may be just a few courses and a licensure exam away from earning a new professional title!


You actually like helping people. And, we’re not talking about one of those trendy jewelry, skin-care or fitness multi-level marketing programs that offer benefits galore. We’re talking about really helping people. Real estate agents help people make some of the largest purchases of their lifetimes. Now, if only there were a 21-day fix for those slow closing processes!


You’ve often shown that you could work from anywhere. Seriously, anywhere. We’ve all pulled out our laptop at Starbucks, but you… you’re comfortable fielding calls and making appointments from your car while in line to pick up the kids from school. You’d gladly take an important call in the check-out line. And, yes, you’ve absolutely fallen asleep at your laptop while in bed.


Therefore, you couldn’t go an hour without your cell phone… and, it MUST be a smartphone. Forget Instagram, Twitter or games like Clash of Clans. Your phone is a vital part of your everyday existence. In fact, you’ve mastered so many tasks on your phone that you’ve even questioned whether or not you need a computer anymore.


You’re a boss. You’ve always been a boss. And, you know it. Well, obviously. Being a real estate agent means that you’re your own boss. You make your own hours and put in just as much effort as you… and only you… deem necessary for success.


But, don’t be confused. You have one heck of a work ethic. You realize that making your own hours may mean that you don’t work 9-5 every day, because you’re actually working from sun-up to sun-down… some days. And, you’re willing to do that. Because (see numbers 3 and 5 above), you know that you’ll reap what you sow.


You’ve always wanted an unlimited earning potential. Who doesn’t, right? But, speaking seriously about reaping what you sow, in reality, a career in real estate actually can offer unlimited earnings. It’s all about the amount of work you’re willing to put in.


You’ve always wanted more tax write-offs. As a self-employed real estateprofessional, you’re entitled to deduct a boat-load of common business expenses that you incur throughout a year’s time. Curious as to what qualifies as a business expense? Think advertising, business meals and entertainment, mileage, insurance, cell phones, office supplies, internet bills, retirement plan contributions… the list goes on and on… and on.


You love snooping around other people’s homes. No, we’re not trying to get creepy here. But, it’s OK to admit that when you visit a friend’s house, you’re eyeing up some of the finer architectural details, renovations or even color options they’ve chosen. When you’re working in real estate, you’re constantly exposed to all types of homes – new, old and still under construction!


You embrace change. From rising and falling markets to tightly-packed and barely-busy days, life as a real estate professional is never the same. Day-to-day, you could be running from appointment to appointment to open house. You could be working from home, catching up on emails, reaching out to new clients and scheduling showings. You could be attending closing with one of your buyers or sellers. In the real estate industry, things are constantly changing, so you’ve got one option… embrace that change!

If you’ve seen yourself in any of these 10 signs, pursuing a career in real estate could be your destiny. Find out how you can fulfill that career destiny with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty today.

These Five Hauntingly Cool and Creepy Houses are Fit for Halloween!

All throughout the Halloween season, those of us who love a good scare flock to haunted happenings wherever we can find them. From houses to hayrides, there’s just something delightful about feeling so frightful during this time of year!

But, what about those Halloween lovers who would like to experience that horrifyingly satisfying feeling all year long? In the true spirit of this Saturday’s Halloween holiday, we’re showcasing a few of the coolest and creepiest pieces of real estate around!

Here are five spookily spectacular homes for sale this Halloween:

  1. Oh Clarice, you didn’t think we could let this lurking list begin without mentioning one of our very own listings, did you? Though creepy only for the role it played in the 1991 thriller “The Silence of the Lambs,” this historical Princess Anne home caused quite a national stir when it recently went on the market. In the Academy Award-winning movie, this Pittsburgh house was the home of serial killer Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb. Unfortunately, for thrill-seekers and movie buffs alike, the actual home is for sale without the villainous dungeon in the basement!


  2. A crumbling Illinois mansion-turned-funeral-home has just the eerie appeal to entice Halloween enthusiasts into buying! Its outward appearance is beautifully striking, but the indoor disrepair looks hauntingly similar to a scene from a horror film. This worthy fixer-upper’s spirited history includes serving as the autopsy site for the 1960 Starved Rock Murder victims. The horrifyingly beautiful home could be yours today for $150,000!


  3. One New Orleans mansion has seen its share of screen time as “Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies” on the FX’s “American Horror Story: Coven.” In reality, it’s called the Buckner Mansion and avid horror fans may be disappointed to find out that only the home’s exterior was filmed for the show. Nonetheless, the 1853 residence is certain to have some unexplained squeaks and creeks in still of the night. The 20,000 square-foot mansion is not for sale, but could be rented for one spooktacular ghostly gala this Halloween!  


  4. What could be scarier than a hipster ghost?! A Syndey, Australia three-bedroom, two-bath terrace is instantly spooktacular based solely on its listing photos, which appear to include the ghost of a bearded man sitting at a vintage desk! To add to the home’s eeriness, it’s complete with old plasterwork and raw ceilings and walls. But, this possibly-haunted house comes with a hefty price tag; it’s currently listed for $1.2 million!


  5. In Camden, New York, there is a Queen Anne that some fearless buyer has already claimed; but, in the spirit of the season, we just had to share its bit of haunting history. From unexplained handprints on the windows of the supposedly empty property to stories of owners who mysteriously vacated the home just after buying it, the 1880s property is sure to pack enough paranormal activity to please any fright lover out there!

From horrific features in both TV and movies to haunting histories and supernatural sightings, these five homes are such perfect fits for the Halloween season that they’re actually scary! If you’re interested in keeping that scare-factor around all year long, dare to do more than look into these hauntingly great pieces of real estate. Happy Halloween! 




20 of the Best Halloween Attractions in Pittsburgh

Ghouls, goblins, and ghosts… oh my! If you have yet to get your fill of all the spooky and scary things October is known for, we've got good news for you… there’s still time! Spend the next two weekends marching in costume parades, touring haunted houses and carving pumpkins. Whether you’re looking for a fun, family friendly event or a super scary, “adults only” experience, you’ll find it below.  

Family Friendly Activities

Get the whole family in the Halloween spirit by attending one of these family-friendly events!


1. Halloween Mayhem

The 7th annual Halloween Mayhem has many activities for you and your family to enjoy and participate in! From a costume parade to live performances and way too many games to count, you are guaranteed to have a wonderful time.

Where: Kelly Strayhorn Theater 5941 Penn Ave

When: Saturday, October 24th from 12-4 PM



2. Ultimate Pet Costume Contest

Who wouldn’t love seeing a dog in a pumpkin costume?! Better yet, who wouldn’t love to participate in a pet costume contest?! This year Steel City Pet Expo is hosting a wonderful event full of cuddles and cuteness. Bring your furry best friend along to celebrate Halloween!  

Where: Monroeville Convention Center - 209 Mall Plaza Boulevard Monroeville, PA 15146

When: Saturday, October 31 9-5 PM


3. Halloween Party in the Park  

This Halloween party has it all! Bring the entire family to Pine Park to enjoy ghost stories, a hayride, crafts, a bonfire and, of course, a costume parade!

Where: Pine Park Gazebo

When: October 24th 1:00-4:00 PM


4. Monster Mini Golf

Monsters, ghouls and ghosts wanted! Spend your Halloween at the Monroeville Mall for this spooky and exhilarating mini golf course! The golf course is lit by a black light, making it even more exciting and unique. Test your skills and see if you have the courage to make it through this spooky golf course.  

Where: 3813 William Penn Hwy. Monroeville, PA 15146

When: Monday- Thursday 2-9 Friday 2-10 Saturday 12-10 Sunday 12-8



5. ZooBoo

Dress up and wander through the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium collecting sweet treats and checking out the animal exhibits. The costume parade starts at 12:30PM at the PPG Aquarium patio by the polar bear exhibit.

Where: Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

When: October 24 and 25 from 10AM – 3PM



6. Owl'oween! Pumpkin, Owls and Bats!

The Children’s Department at Northland Public Library is an exciting place to be! Bring your family to create fun crafts, walk in a costume parade, play games, eat yummy treats and more! There will also be a costume parade through the library, so be sure to wear your favorite costume!

Where: Northland Public Library-Children’s Department

When: October 29, 2015 6:00-8:00 PM




TRUCK or TREAT is a unique and fun way to celebrate this time of year! This event is exciting for all ages and free to attend. There will be food trucks lined up throughout the park, music and live entertainment for everyone! Kids can get a balloon from Debo the Clown, have their faces painted and go trick-or-treating! Adults can enjoy music by DJ Ronman and purchase drinks at select booths! Dress up and bring your friends, family and pets for this exciting and entertaining day!

Where: Schenley Plaza 4100 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15260

When: October 24th 1:00-8:00PM



8. Gateway Clipper - Halloween Monster Party

Sail the open seas with some of the city's spookest monsters on the Gateway Clipper's Halloween Monster Party.

Where: 350 West Station Square Drive Pittsburgh, PA 15219

When: October 24th Trip #1: 10:00-1:00PM Trip #2: 1:15-3:00PM



9. Carnegie Science Center - Family Halloween Laser Show

Do the Monster Mash during this spooky laser show! Kids will love it!

Where: 1 Allegheny Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

When: October 24th, 25th, 26th, 30th and 31st (visit website for times)  



10. Phipps Conservatory - Halloweens Happenings

The boo-tiful glassshouse features fun Halloween activities for all ages! Create your own spooky potted plants, check out the carved pumpkins and nom on some tasty treats!

Where: 1 Schenley Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

When: October 30th 4:00-8:00PM



11. Children’s Museum - Boo to You Too

So much for the kiddos to do! Trick or treat through the musuem, decorate treat bags, have your face painted, make Halloween art, hear a Halloween story and much more!

Where: 10 Children's Way, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

When: October 30th 5:30-9:00PM



12. Aviary Owl-O-Ween

Wear your costume (bird-themed is always welcomed!) and get ready to have a hoot! Make crafts, meet owls and take pictures with some cool birds!

Where: 700 Arch St, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

When: October 24th and 31st 11:00-3:00PM



Adults Only!

Get a babysitter because these attractions are too scary for kids!


13. Haunted Hills Hayride

Hold onto your seat, you’re in for one scary ride! At the 16th annual Haunted Hills Hayride, you’ll never know what’s around the next corner but we bet it’ll give you nightmares!

Where: 500 Mosside Blvd., North Versailles PA 15137

When: October  23-25 and October 28-31 between 7PM and 11PM



14. Hobgoblin Hikes

This half mile hike takes you through mazes and haunted cemeteries. On the way, you’ll past over 100 goblins, ghouls and monsters!

Where: Northmoreland Park

When: Friday, October 30 from 7PM – 9PM



15. Hundred Acres Manor

Named the 2015 Best Halloween Attraction by the Travel Channel, this haunted attraction features six outrageously terrifying attractions. You’ll come face to face with zombies, creatures, monsters, ghosts and things you only see in your worst nightmares.

Where: 1 Hundred Acres Drive, Bethel Park PA 15102

When: October 23 – November 1 from 7PM – 11:30PM



16. The Scarehouse

The Scarehouse consistently tops national lists as one of the best haunted houses and there is good reason for that! This haunted attraction takes it one step further with their “The Basesment” attraction which actually requires you to sign a waiver before entering!

Where: 7340 Butler Street, Pittsburgh PA 15206

When: Thursdays – Sundays in October from 7PM – 12AM



17. Kennywood Phantom Fright Nights

Okay, we all know Kennywood is full of dreams and Potato Patch fries, but in October it’s a prime location for spooks and scares!

Where: Kennywood

When: Every Friday and Saturday in October



18. Zombies of the Corn

Love zombies! Then, this is for you! The main attraction: Zombie Shoot. That’s right, you get to fight off zombies with paintball guns.

Where: 282 Rochester Road, Freedom PA 15042

When: Weekends until November 1



19. Haunted Pittsburgh Tours

Discover some of the most haunted places in downtown Pittsburgh during this guided walking tour. You’ll visit the haunted areas in person as you learn about their ghost stories.

Where: Downtown Pittsburgh

When: Fridays and Saturday at 7PM



Post Halloween

For those who just can't get enough of Halloween!


20. Great Pumpkin Smash

Halloween may be over, but there is one last thing we all still have to do. Throw away our pumpkins. Instead of throwing your jack-o’-lanterns away in the garbage, make it a fun filled activity for the kids. Come to the Science Center and roll them off the roof or join the Smash-ologists for the annual Great Pumpkin Smash!

Where: 1 Allegheny Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

When: November 7th 10:00-5:00PM



10 Fall Fests in Pittsburgh that You Must Check Out

Fall is a great time to squeeze in some family fun! Fortunately, there are lots of local places that feature pumpkin picking, hay rides, fresh apple cider and everything else that makes fall so fabulous. Here are a few of our favorites:


1) Fall Festivals at Soergel Orchards

Perfect for children of all ages! The Fall Festivals at Soergel Orchards in Wexford PA feature activities and games, hayrides, tasty food and more! Plus, you and your family can pick your very own pumpkins!

When: Every weekend until October 25, 2015 from 11:00 am to 5:00pm

Where: Soergel Orchards – 2573 Brandt School Road, Wexford PA 15090



2) Pumpkin Festival at Cheeseman Farm

Enjoy a cool fall day with the family at the Pumpkin Festival at Cheeseman Farm. This annual event features hay rides, a petting zoo, a hay jump, and many more activities! Plus, you can pick up some of your fall favorites, including local honey, pumpkins and homemade apple butter.

When: Every weekend in October from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm

Where: Cheeseman Farms – Kennedy Road, Portersville PA 16051



3) Harvest Festival of Fun at Reilly’s Summer Seat Farm & Garden Center

Pony rides, go carts, corn mazes and cow milking… sign me up! The Harvest Festival of Fun has everything you could possibly imagine. Take a hayride through the pumpkin patch, get your face painted, make a scarecrow and enjoy a Carmel Apple. You won’t be disappointed!

When: Every weekend in October from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Where: Reilly’s Summer Seat Farm & Garden Center – 1120 Roosevelt Road, Pittsburgh PA 15237



4) Fall Festival at Triple B Farms

Nothing says autumn like apples and pumpkins! At Triple B Farms in Monongahela PA, you can pick your own. The family fun doesn’t end there. The farm also has a Storybook Pumpkinland, Big Blue Boo Barn, Corn Maze, Farm Flinger, Pony Rides and more. In addition, each weekend features a unique activity, including “Make Your Own Scarecrow,” “Spookley Scavenger Hunt,” and “Mad Science.”

When: Weekends until October 31, 2015 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Where: Triple B Farms – 823 Berry Lane, Monongahela PA 15063



5) Autumnfest at Seven Springs

Enjoy Pennsylvania’s beautiful fall foliage in the mountains! Autumnfest at Seven Springs Mountain Resort offers live entertainment, chairlift rides, art and craft displays, and more. Plus, each weekend has a theme! These themes include “Oktoberfest,” “Pumpkin,” “Chocolate and Chili,” and “Kids’ Halloween.” Make it a weekend getaway with Seven Springs’ Autumnfest weekend stay packages.

Where: Seven Springs Mountain Resort – 777 Waterwheel Drive, Seven Springs PA 15622

When: Saturday, September 3, 2015 through October 3, 2015



6) Schramm Farms

Not only does this place have all the must-haves… pumpkin patches, hayrides, pony rides, a petting zoo, corn mazes… it also has a corn box! It’s just like a sand box, but instead of sand it is filled with corn kernels! Plus, Schramm Farms in Jeannette PA has some really tasty, homemade apple cider slushies. YUM!

Where: 1002 Blank Road, Jeannette PA

When: Every weekend in September and October



7) Simmons Farm

Tis the season! Nothing says fall like hay mazes, pumpkin carving, and apple picking! Come join all the fun at Simmons Farm in McMurray PA where you and your family can celebrate Fall in all the right ways. You and your family and participate in an array of exciting activities like an apple rock labyrinth, petting zoo, 100 foot slide, five acres of pumpkin picking, four acres of corn maze fun, hay rides and much more!

Where: 170 Simmons Rd McMurray PA 15317

When: Monday through Thursday 9am-6:45pm and Friday-Sunday 9am-5:45pm



8) IdleWild

Idlewild in Ligonier PA isn’t only enjoyable in the summer time! During select dates, Idlewild’s Hallowboo Festival is full of fun activities, live entertainment and themed rides! You and your family can go trick-or-treating through the Story Book Forest, take your picture with costumed characters and find your way through a hay bale maze! Watch your kids perform at the Hallowboo Scary-O-Key and dance at the Jack-O-Lantern Jive. From the hay maze to the haunted train ride, your family is guaranteed to enjoy the spooky family fun.

Where: Idlewild & SoakZone 2574 U.S. 30 Ligonier, PA 15658

When: October 17, 18, 24 and 25 (Tickets available on their site)



9) GearHard Farms

Gearhard Farms in Murrysville PA presents their 16th Annual Corn Maze! This exciting maze is challenging and fun for family and friends of all ages. Hope you like solving mysteries because this maze includes a mystery aerial message which is only revealed once the maze is completed! Not only is there a spectacular corn maze, but this festival also includes hayrides, campfires and horse cart rides that can be scheduled for you and your group.

Where: 286 Saltsburg Rd, Murrysville, PA 15668

When: Friday 5-10pm, Saturday 12-10pm, and Sunday 12-8pm



10) Trax Farms

Trax Farm’s 46th Annual Fall Festival isn’t lying when they say they have fun for everyone! From grandparents to grandkids, everybody will find something they truly enjoy. There are live concerts, delicious food, a petting zoo, pony rides, a  4-acre Corn Maze, hay rides, a rock wall, a fun house and much, much more. Celebrate this beautiful time of year right with your friends and family!

Where: 528 Trax Road, Finleyville, PA 15332

When: Saturday and Sunday September 19th-October 25th 10am to 5pm


Pittsburgh Proud! Why We Love Living in the Northeast’s "Best Big City!"

Welp… it’s happened again. Pittsburgh has topped another national “best of” list. This time, our city ranks as MONEY’s “Best Big City” in the U.S. Northeast. Their article points to big companies like Uber, Google and Apple setting up shop in the Steel City; but, we know there are countless other things that make Pittsburgh one of the best places to live.

Here are 10 reasons why we love living in Pittsburgh so much:

  1. The Sports – Oh, come on. Football season starts in just over a week. How can we not mention our hometown sports heroes? Whether it’s the Steelers, Pirates, Penguins or all three that have you cheering, the spirit that surrounds our professional sports teams is infectious!


  2. The Schools – Thanks to an abundance of award-winning colleges and universities, like Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University, to name only a few, those big-name companies we mentioned above easily can find a talented pool of professional candidates when it comes time for hiring.


  3. The Food – Pierogies and Primanti’s are just two Pittsburgh food staples that have been deemed as local favorites. These days, trendy eateries likes Eleven, Meat & Potatoes and Cure are taking over the city with some seriously good tastes!


  4. The Culture – The food isn’t the only thing that’s gone “fine” in Pittsburgh. Our city’s Cultural District features block after block of theater, art gallery or other performance hall. Pittsburgh’s Cultural District is home to the renowned Benedum Center and Byham Theater, along with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.


  5. The History – If sports and the arts aren’t necessarily for you, Pittsburgh’s rich history is sure to impress. You can learn all about the city’s history and so much more at one of the city’s many museums. The Senator John Heinz History Center is one of Pennsylvania’s largest history museums and at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, you can see everything from dinosaurs to robots! There’s even a museum to celebrate the work of Pittsburgh native artist Andy Warhol.


  6. The Green Space – Living in Pittsburgh isn’t only about streets bustling with business and entertainment options. In fact, there are five parks or nearly 2,000 acres of green space inside the city limits. Letting children run through the Point State Park Fountain is always fun or escaping that chaos for some serenity atop Emerald View Park in Mount Washington can be complete bliss.


  7. The Beauty – Speaking of Mount Washington, it offers one of the best and most breathtaking views of Pittsburgh to be seen. Not only can you ride a historic incline to reach the top; but, once you’re there, you can gaze upon city’s prominent skyline, complemented by the natural beauty of the merging of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers… all in one glance.  


  8. The Attractions – Living in Pittsburgh, it is easy to experience nature by merely taking a walk outside. But, our city has one of the nation’s top-rated zoos and aquariums, too. And, the attractions don’t stop there. Pittsburgh is home to legendary Kennywood Park and Sandcastle Water Park, in addition to beautiful botanical gardens, a national aviary and more!


  9. The Healthcare – It’s one of those city features that you never want to think about needing, but are always glad to have available. The healthcare options in Pittsburgh are unmatched. From the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center health system to regional hospitals like West Penn and Allegheny General Hospital, options for top-rated patient care are abounding.


  10. The People – So, the other “reasons” on this list may be landmarks, parks or restaurants, but anyone who’s traveled to Pittsburgh will agree… there’s just something about the people you meet and live around in this city. It’s not hard to make forever friends here, and even if you’ve just met someone, they’re likely to treat you like they’ve known you for years anyway.

So, thanks to MONEY for recognizing our city as one of the nation’s “Best Big Cities…” but, if you ask anyone who’s lived here or even visited, we knew we had that one in the bag! Find out what makes Pittsburgh such a special place to live by visiting our Pittsburgh Real Estate guide.

SOLD! Why So Many Moms Make Great Real Estate Agents!

OK, moms… back-to-school season is here. In fact, your kids already may have started with their first day of classes. If so, you’ve probably already shared that signature back-to-school photo with all of your followers and friends… you know, that one of your little ones waiting for the bus, holding that “I want to be a _____ when I grow up” sign.

So… (insert incredibly long, eerie silence here) now, what?

Sure, give yourself a day or two to enjoy all of the sudden free time you’ve got back; clean your house the way you want to; take your time and do your workout the way you want to; but, again… then what?

Though many moms may yearn for a quiet moment alone when they’re home with their kids all day, the fact is that once the kids go back to school, most moms just don’t know what to do with all of those quiet moments and free time.

But, reentering the work force is not always an easy option. There are morning drop-offs, afternoon pick-ups, after-school practices and other activities that moms want to be there for… er, they need to be there for.

This leaves many moms to look for freelance opportunities, part-time work or multi-level marketing positions that generate income and fill up some free time. What many moms may not realize is that there is a lucrative, career opportunity that allows them to stay at home when school’s cancelled or the kids are sick; this career option even allows mom to be there for morning drop-offs, afternoon pick-ups and to cheer on her little ones during their after-school activities.

We’re talking about a career in real estate and, unlike many career changes out there, it is not a field that is hard to break into with no prior experience. To become a licensed real estate agent, there are two 30-hour courses that are required. Following their completion, new agents pay to take a state licensure exam. In passing that licensing exam, real estate agents are eligible to take advantage of the following family-friendly career perks:

1. Scheduling Flexibility – What mom (or any other business professional) wouldn’t love this? As a real estate agent, you decide how much you would like to work and when! You can contribute to your family’s income on a part-time or full-time basis and you absolutely can make your own hours. You can answer emails and calls while the kids are at school and meet with clients on evenings and weekends when you’re not attending those extra-curricular activities that are just too important for moms to miss!


2. Office Options – Unlike many other professional career choices, a career in the real estate industry still allows moms (or anyone else) to work from the comfort of their own home, either in their most professional attire or their PJs! Yes, many real estate agents have the option of coming into an office, but when mom’s little ones need to stay home or she simply needs to get some things done around the house, working from home is always an acceptable option!


3. Earning Potential – We all know that it is already hard to put a price on everything that moms do around the house. With a career in real estate, there is no capping the additional income that mom can bring into the family, either! Real estate agents earn a commission-based salary, so income is based solely on the amount of work that a person puts in. If moms put in half of the energy that they put toward keeping the family running smoothly, success in real estate is inevitable!

In addition to the family-friendly perks that all moms are able to take advantage of by pursuing a career in the real estate industry, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty real estate agents also enjoy several other freebies that include e-leads and referrals, a company content management system, marketing materials, web listings, professional listing photos and continuing real estate and management education courses.

So, moms, when you’re coping with the eerie silence that remains once your kids go back to school this year, consider what a career in real estate could do for you and your family. Learn more about how to start an exciting career as a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty real estate agent here.  

Is Your Career Destiny Calling? 10 Signs You Were Made for Real Estate!

It’s ok; you can admit it. You’ve dabbled with the thought of leaving your career and starting over. Maybe that thought amounted to you packing up your office in true Jerry McGuire-fashion and making a major change. Or, maybe it amounted to you simply taking a “What is My Dream Job” quiz on social media, only to find out that you actually were destined to be a reality-TV star. Maybe you hit up happy hour that afternoon and decided things weren’t so bad with your current gig after all.

But, have you considered the thought of staying in your current career AND starting a new one… simultaneously? After all, that would allow you to put off making the tough decision to leave your current career path, until you found out that the grass may be greener somewhere else.

With a career in real estate, you can do just that. If you’ve ever toyed with the thought (and even if you’re just open to considering it), here are 10 signs that you just may be destined for a career in real estate:

You like people. In the real estate industry, you’re going to work with a lot of people. Buyers, sellers, lenders, other agents, contractors, inspectors and other service professionals are only a few of the types that you will interact with on a regular basis. So, yes, being a people-person is a certain asset in the real estate industry.


But, not enough to answer to a boss every day. Yes, getting along with other people is a must, but answering to a boss in the real estate industry is not! As a real estate agent, you are responsible for setting your own goals and making sure you meet them. Yep, that’s right; the only person you have to answer to… is you!


You want to get paid for how hard you work. There’s one in every office, right? That guy or gal who is happy to let you know how much more they make than you, when it is painfully obvious that they don’t put in half of the time or effort that you do. As a real estate agent, you get what you give. So, if your effort is sub-par, your pay check will be, too. If you’re willing to work hard, you’ll reap what you sow.


But, you’d like to work on your own clock. Have you always been the type who likes to sleep in, but doesn’t mind working until 8 p.m. or later each night? Maybe you’re up at the crack of dawn answering emails, but want to attend your kids’ after-school activities on a regular basis. As a real estate agent, you have the flexibility of deciding when you show homes and respond to your clients.


You’ve always wanted to work from home. OK, so you like to get up at the crack of dawn and are happy to reply to email after email after email full of questions at that hour, too. But, you’d like to do so in your pajamas. As a real estate agent, that’s no problem! Sure, you may have a designated office space outside of your home; but, you’ve also got the freedom to do your job in the comfort of your home office, too!


But, you’d also like to be able to work from your car. Hey, as long as you’ve got your smartphone in tow, as a real estate agent, you can pretty much work from wherever you’d like! In fact, your phone may become your best friend as a real estate agent. You can answer client emails, return phone calls or even text your clients any updates on their home searches or sales.


Then, again, maybe you only want to work part-time. In real estate, there is no one telling you that you need to work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week. In fact, if you choose, you can work as much or as little as you would like. But, again, look back to number three on our list. The real estate industry is perfect for those who want to get out what they put in!


But, income potential is important to you. Ah yes, another awesome point when you don’t have a boss to answer to each day. There is no ceiling on what you can earn! When you want a raise in the real estate industry, just work for it and it will be yours!


You’re open to learning something new… often. Not only does delving into the real estate industry involve taking a few courses and passing a licensure exam. Once you do that and you join a real estate team, there are often continuing education courses at your disposal. So, if you consider yourself a forever-learner, the real estate industry has plenty of potential to keep you constantly interested.


You’ve always wanted to make a difference in someone’s life. There is a reason that both buying and selling a home can be stressful. After all, they are some of the biggest decisions and expenses that many people will make. As a real estate agent, you have the distinct privilege of helping person after person complete these monumental moments in their lives. Now, that is power with a purpose!

Are all or some of these 10 signs pointing you in the direction of a career in real estate? Find out how you may be able to realize your career goals. Learn more about a real estate career in Pittsburgh today.

The Age Gap

According to a recent study quoted by Inman News, about 68 percent of real estate agents are under the age of 35 (or Millennial). Now, whether this study is accurate or not, which you may completely disagree with since NAR says most agents are an average of 57 years-old, it begs the question, how different the industry would be if the agent population was more than two thirds Millennial.


Why does it matter?


Because this population works so differently than the others. And we all must learn how to do a better job working with them.


So here are just a few ideas I have written down to get us started on a conversation.


Digitization — Have you noticed the success of Docusign? The under 35 year old has. They are all over it, completely dependent on the tool. In fact, I bet they don’t even print out an actual contract unless it’s needed for their office, and most offices are digital now so I would bet they don’t need to do it then either. The time for carrying loads of paper around in folders is a foreign concept to this age group. They don’t understand it. Especially when all the work can be done by either their tablet or phone. So, if you are waiting around for a fax or scanned email of an entire document, this group isn’t playing. It’s a whole new day.

Communication — Have you started to notice a new trend? Negotiating by text, perhaps? Whether you agree with it or not, it’s happening and most likely it is this group driving the practice. After all, they text for all other reasons, why not this one. Texting is how they do everything. So unless you are prepared to have a very frank conversation with them from the very beginning and explain how you like to be communicated with, expect a lot of phone buzzes. Which is fine as long as both of you are okay with it and it does not get in the way of the transaction.

Perspective — Millennials are from a different generation than you are. Don’t expect them to have the same kind of perspective you have on the world. They look through an entirely different prism. My advice, don’t try to be them, but do try and look through their eyes. But trying to work with them and using their perspective does not mean being their parent! Don’t patronize them. In any cases they are excellent agents and don’t need your advice. They need to work with you, yes, but not in any kind of paternalistic way. Just communicate clearly about your expectations and it should all be fine.

So, whether you believe the new numbers or not Millennials work differently. Be open and work with them, not against them. 

The Value of Facebook Advertising

For many brands, Facebook advertising is an essential part of their overall marketing strategy. If done well, open houses, recruiting, and brand recognition can be maximized beyond what many people have thought of as successful in the past.

However, many have questions about how to do it in a manner that will achieve results. After all just doing an ad does not garner or guarantee success.

No. There are a few “must’s” when doing an ad on Facebook. Here are some.

Consistency — without a consistent messaging strategy on Facebook, your ads will die on the vine. If you are going to do it, do it right. Make sure you come up with a calendar that focuses on message. If you are going to focus on open houses, then make sure you make it a theme. Such as, Open Houses for first time home buyers! The more specific the better.

Targeting — Facebook ads are all about targeting. With Facebook you can literally hyper focus on those you specifically want to reach. Such as, if you want to create an ad that reaches 24-32 year-olds who live in downtown Pittsburgh, who have Dogs, you can. Targeting is sophisticated. The more specific you are the better the result.

Relevancy — Facebook is about being relevant. The more relevant you are to the hyper-specific world you are trying to reach the more success you will have. For ideas, look at Inman. See what is happening there. Based on that you will have ideas on who to reach. Try it. You will be amazed by how well you will do.

Facebook is the world’s greatest opportunity at reaching the people who we are all trying to reach. Through advertising, you will be amazed at how well you can do. Give it a try, and your business will flourish.  

The eye of the photographer

In this new digital age of real estate it has become expected that, as agents, we all become photographers. Just look around at real estate schools. Where once they offered classes on negotiation they now offer classes on perfecting the digital eye, specifically focused on helping agents learn to shoot photographs for marketing.

But whether you are shooting with a smartphone or a more elaborate tool such as a DSLR (or fancy camera), the one fact remains, the quality of the shot is dependent on the creative “eye” of the user. And that is difficult to teach.

When I was in college, photography was a part of my triple concentration major in Fine Art. And to this day I find “shooting” a house a difficult production. Lighting, composition, depth of field, all lend themselves as potential land minds in the digital house tour realm.

That’s why I always recommend a professional. However if you are convinced you can go it alone here are some tips.


1. Composition is everything. Make sure that the shots you choose are well positioned and pleasing. If you want a quick lesson there are plenty of basic tips on twitter, Inman, and Google. Just look up Photography for Real Estate or composition. It will help.

2. Lighting is vital. A poor lit home makes things dark and depressing. Make sure that whatever you are shooting with gives you enough light to show off the room.

3. Equipment matters. There is a reason cameras cost what they cost. They can determine the outcome of a successful photograph. Invest in a good camera. Also, most retailers offer classes after the sale of their items. Take advantage of it.

4. Practice until you really feel it. There is nothing wrong with practice makes perfect. Shoot your own home if you must. But build enough confidence in yourself that you feel you really know what you are doing.

Make Pittsburgh Your Headquarters for Hot Summer Fun!

June’s arrival can mean only one thing … it’s time for some serious summer fun! And, when it comes to a happening city for summer, Pittsburgh’s the place to be.

Sure, Pittsburgh’s got year-round family fun like riding the incline to the top of Mount Washington for a breathtaking view, shopping in the Strip District, getting wild at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, enjoying some thrills at Kennywood or making a splash at Sandcastle. But, in addition to all of the everyday fun that Pittsburgh has to offer, summertime brings out some particularly awesome activities that just can’t be missed.

To start off your summer season right, we’ve listed just a few of the many awesome summer activities that Pittsburgh offers:

The Three Rivers Arts Festival: Beginning in just a few days, the 56th annual Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival is a 10-day celebration of free music and art that takes over much of the city’s downtown area. This year’s festival includes everything from music, dance, theater, art exhibits, creative activities… and, oh yes, food! The 56th annual Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival runs from June 5th through June 14th.

The Pennsylvania Microbrewers’ Fest: Also happening this weekend is the Pennsylvania Microbrewers’ Fest, held at Pittsburgh’s Penn Brewery. This craft beer lover’s dream includes samples from over 25 craft breweries, brewery tours, food and live music. The Pennsylvania Microbrewers’ Fest is slated for June 6th and begins at 5 p.m.

Celebrate America: Although it’s fun to visit Kennywood throughout the entire summer, just before the end of June, Kennywood begins a week-long salute to our nation. Celebrate America includes days full of patriotic entertainment and face-painting and nights full of fireworks.  The Celebrate America festival at Kennywood begins on June 30th and ends on July 5th.

The Big Butler Fair: Once July hits, it’s time for the 160th Big Butler Fair, which is deemed the largest fair in Western Pennsylvania. Just outside of the city, the Big Butler Fair includes nine days of games, food, concerts and even live animals! Since the fair is always held over Independence Day, it’s always complete with an exciting fireworks show! This year’s Big Butler Fair runs from July 3rd through July 11th.

Fort Armstrong Folk Festival: Ending July and giving August a great start is the Fort Armstrong Folk Festival, which celebrates Armstrong County’s rich cultural heritage. Traditional fun includes blacksmithing and spinning demonstrations and horse and carriage rides. The Fort Armstrong Folk Festival includes great music, food and an artist market. This Pittsburgh-area festival runs from July 30th to August 2nd.

Bloomfield Little Italy Days: Holy cannoli! Before it’s time for the back-to-school season, visiting the Pittsburgh suburb of Bloomfield for Little Italy Days is a must! Of course, the festival celebrates the suburb’s Italian heritage and for residents and visitors alike that means lots to see and hear, plus even more to eat. Bloomfield Little Italy Days begin on August 20th and last through August 23rd.

Kickoff and Rib Festival: Truly a Pittsburgh tradition, the Kickoff and Rib Festival is held at none other than Pittsburgh Steelers’ headquarters, Heinz Field. If the national award-winning rib vendors are not enough to draw you in, there are free concerts, rides, games and even more family fun. The Kickoff and Rib Festival begins September 3rd and runs through September 7th. Yep, just in time for football season!

While this hot list of special summertime activities in and around Pittsburgh is sure to take you through to the fall, don’t forget that there’s always something going on in the Steel City. Between summer festivals, you can catch a Buccos game at PNC Park, take a cruise on the Gateway Clipper Fleet or relax at one of Pittsburgh’s many beautiful state or regional parks.

Still looking for something to do in Pittsburgh? Have you toured through all of the museums or taken in the restaurant scene? Get out in that summer sun and enjoy all that the bustling, beautiful city of Pittsburgh has to offer!

MLS, FSBO, REO… OMG! Learn the Meanings Behind Common Real Estate Terms

Remember when you were in elementary school and you brought home that list of spelling or vocabulary words that your mom or dad would have to go over with you each night? Believe it or not, when you are preparing to buy or sell a home, learning the associated real estate lingo can be a bit like mastering those intimidating lists of new vocabulary and spelling words.

Since real estate transactions are involved enough, we’re throwing away the rule books and providing you with a little cheat sheet of some of the most important terms you may come across when you’re buying or selling a home:

Listings: “Have you checked the listings?” The term “listing” may carry the most literal meaning of all in the real estate world. A listing is just that… a list of information about a home that is available for sale. Included in a listing, you’ll find details like the asking price, number of bedrooms and overall square footage… among a TON of other information. You can find available listings on many websites, including the Multiple Listing Service or MLS.

MLS: Speaking of the MLS or Multiple Listing Service, if you’ve started doing any research on buying or selling a home, you’ve likely seen this acronym a time or two. The MLS is a database that includes all available homes for sale. When a home is listed, it’s added to the MLS database; when it is sold, it is removed. The MLS gives agents and their clients quick, convenient access to all available homes for sale.

FSBO: If you’re planning to sell your home, maybe you’ve considered it. If you’re planning to buy a home, maybe you’ve seen this FSBO on the “for sale” sign. FSBO is a commonly-used real estate acronym that means For Sale By Owner. In this situation, a seller has chosen to list their home without the aid of a real estate agent. So, while they forego realtor commissions, they assume all responsibility associated with completing the sale.

CMA: Another responsibility that a FSBO seller may take on is completing a CMA or comparative market analysis. Routinely when they are assisting clients, real estate agents evaluate similar area homes to see how they compare to a home that a seller would like to list or one that a buyer would like to purchase. These similar homes are called comparables and evaluating them helps a real estate agent to determine the current market value of a home that is to be bought or sold.

REO: Though many 80s music lovers may think that the word Speedwagon should always follow the term “REO,” in real estate, REO stands for “real estate owned” and it is the result of a foreclosure. An REO property is one that is owned by the bank and can be bought from the bank, but is typically sold “as is.” With an REO home, dealing with the bank may be a bit less negotiable than working with other sellers.

Foreclosure: If you read the last definition, but stopped with confusion after seeing the word “foreclosure,” read on. A foreclosed home is one that a lender is trying to sell in the hopes of recovering the balance of the home loan. Foreclosed homes are the only collateral that a bank has to regain lost funds. Though the real estate market has rebounded tremendously since crashing a few years ago, buyers are still likely to notice some foreclosed homes on their radar as they search for the perfect space.

Contingent: Another word that accompanies many real estate transactions is contingent or contingency. A contingent offer is one that has been made and accepted, but relies on meeting certain criteria throughout the closing process. Standard contingencies include passing a home inspection or appraisal. When a buyer makes a contingent offer, they have a safe way out of the transaction that will protect any money they’ve put down if any contingency is not met.

Lockbox: If you’ve started to browse available homes in the real estate market, you may have noticed a small, rectangular box hanging from the doorknob on the front door of a home that is for sale. These boxes keep a home securely locked throughout the sales process, but also allow real estate agents to access the home for showings. Inside the lockbox, sellers will keep a key that gives access to their home in their absence. The only way an agent can access that key is through a security code or swipe card that has been issued.

Real Estate Agent: It’s a real estate term that every buyer and seller has probably used, whether they decide to hire one or not. It’s a word that we’ve used several times throughout this article. The term real estate agent refers to a licensed professional who has taken classes and passed a state licensing exam to work in real estate. They’ve proven their knowledge of the real estate sales process, but are often required to constantly improve that knowledge through continuing education classes.

REALTOR®: Often used interchangeably with the term “real estate agent,” a REALTOR® is a real estate professional who belongs to the National Association of REALTORS®. Not all real estate agents do. Members of this association are held to the organization’s standards and code of ethics, which, above all, require those members to treat buyers, sellers and anyone else they deal with during a transaction with honesty.

School may be nearly out for the summer, but some commonly-used real estate terms will continue to confuse buyers and sellers. If you’re planning to buy or sell a home and you’ve come across a few words time and time again that you just can’t seem to make sense of, a trusted real estate agent should be happy to offer you an explanation. For a little clarity throughout the home sales process, contact an experienced Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty agent.

Negotiating by text. Or not.

By Darrin Friedman

For many agents, text messaging has become the single most important communication method. After all, it’s so easy! And phone conversations are so laborious, aren’t they? So, we text one another, and I mean we text everything. We discuss our clients' desires and needs, and yes, we even negotiate with the other side using texts.

But is that effective, and is it in the best interest of our clients?

If you were to answer honestly, you would probably tell yourself no. It’s not.

Look at it this way: most of us, when we first meet our clients, tell them what wonderful negotiators we are. But how can we possibly be that fantastic if we don’t even bother to pick up the phone and have real conversations with the other agent?

Inflection, tone, and building rapport are all a part of negotiating, and I would argue that those things are incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to convey via text. 

So the next time you pick up your device to communicate a long list of demands using your thumbs, ask yourself: is this in my clients' best interest?

The answer is no.

Go ahead, make the phone call instead. You just might be amazed by the response from the human being on the other end of the line.

The Ethics of the Pocket Listing

By Darrin Friedman

In almost every market across the country, there is a debate that rages among real estate agents — is the pocket listing a good or bad thing for business, and is it even ethical?

A pocket listing is a property that a brokerage lists “in house" -- meaning that only agents in that brokerage know it is even for sale -- for some period of time before officially putting the home on the market by entering it into a multiple listing service. Some brokerages swear by the practice, because it gives them the first shot at selling their own listings and getting both ends of the deal. Defenders of the pocket listing sometimes justify this approach by saying that since they did the hard work of obtaining and preparing the listing in the first place, they ought to have the right to sell it first as well.

Now, not everyone does it. After all, the very practice itself has an almost taboo quality to it. And of course pocket listings are infuriating to most buyers agents. After all, they never even get a chance to show a home that could be perfect for their clients. Pocket listings reek of bad business. Whatever happened to free trade and the open marketplace?!?

In an article called Law & Policy: Professionalism and pocket listings written by Lesley M. Walker, an associate counsel at the National Association of REALTORS®, she brings up several amazing points of emphasis on how the Pocket Listing is perhaps a violation of the Code of Ethics.

She says, “The REALTOR® Code of Ethics’ Article 1 requires REALTORS® “to promote and protect the interests of the client.” REALTORS® must always keep this in mind when recommending a pocket listing to a client. Even beyond the Code of Ethics, state law generally dictates that real estate agents owe a fiduciary duty to their clients, meaning real estate professionals must place their clients’ interests above their own and act in the best interests of their clients at all times.

"Legal risk concerning pocket listings arises when agents or brokers keep listings off the MLS for reasons that are not in the best interest of the client. For example, unlike MLS listings, pocket listings are more likely to result in the agent representing the seller and the buyer, and the outcome would be a higher commission for the agent. This in itself is not illegal or unethical, but if the prospect of a double commission is the reason an agent suggests a pocket listing to the client, then this could violate the Code of Ethics, MLS rules, and laws in most states.”

Now, based on this premise, in almost every marketplace in the country, there are people on both sides of the aisle that can find reasonable arguments for and against the issue. In an effort to be bipartisan, here are just a couple of my thoughts. It doesn’t mean that I’m right. Feel free to discuss.

1. NAR must come out with an official policy — Pocket listings are a nationwide problem, and it should be formally addressed by the people we have voted on to represent us. That is what NAR is for. A statement on pocket listings should be part of the Code of Ethics of our representative body, not just articles in a magazine urging us to go one way or another.

2. It really comes down to open markets — I’m not an economist, but it would seem to me that anything preventing free trade is a bad idea. I’m just not sure private listings pass the stink test. To me, it seems that maximum marketplace competition is always in the best interest of the client, and anything that restricts such competition is unethical. But maybe that’s for NAR to decide ...?

3.  It about fiduciary responsibility not greed!

What Makes a Strong Real Estate Leader and Why It Matters

By Darrin Friedman

For most real estate agents out there, having a strong manager is crucial to their success. After all, many would suggest that it is this relationship which most determines the day-to-day advancement of an agent's business and career.

But what are the factors that the typical agent should look for when considering this kind of partnership? What attributes should manager candidates exhibit to encourage you choose them as your leader?

Here are some examples of true leadership abilities that some of the best managers demonstrate:

1. The willingness to truly listen — Some of the best leaders I know are not the big talkers, but the ones who show that they are effective listeners, giving agents not only a safe place to vent, but the time to express why they are upset about a particular situation. The best leaders I know listen carefully and really think about the situation before they offer their advice. It is in those active listening moments that trust is gained and relationships are built.

2. The ability to keep everyone focused — Leadership is about helping people stay focused on the task at hand, and the best leaders I know have done this consistently over long periods of time. Regardless of the time of the year or the particulars of the market, the best leaders keep their team honed in on the activities that best support positive movement. In other words, leaders keep their associates focused on doing work that will give them the greatest “ROI” or return on investment.

3. The willingness to never stop teaching — The best leaders never stop coaching and teaching. They have vast knowledge of how the industry works, and they share it. Easily and often. It is through positive and focused engagement that they enhance their workforce.

4. The ability to motivate — There is nothing quite like a strong motivator. Most great leaders are, and they have usually developed this wonderful skill over time, making them able to strike exactly the right tone at the right moment to inspire their listener. If you have found this in your leader, then you are lucky, and you should stick with them! They will always be able to lift you up, no matter the occasion. That's a quality that is priceless.

Living Like a Guest in Your Own Home

By Darrin Friedman

For the first time in eight years, I find myself in the process of selling my own home. I have one word for it: chaos.

The stager has made my home look really fabulous in photos -- I will grant you that -- but she has also created an environment so sterile and pristine that it is utterly unlivable, especially for a family with kids. How are we supposed to cook dinner, or do homework, or brush our teeth without ruining all the careful cooktop-degreasing and counter-emptying that has gone on around here?!? Then there's our agent, who kindly reminds us that it will all be okay if we do exactly what she says. But blindly following directions from her is not exactly easy for me, considering that I’ve been in this business for 12 years ... and I used to manage her!

The simple truth is that I had forgotten what an emotional experience it is to list your home. And because it may have been a while since you were on the other side as well, here are some quick tips to remind you of what your clients go through on a daily basis, and how you can help them survive.

1. Encouragement — My wife has been killing herself getting our house ready for sale. It took more than two months of agony to do everything the stager recommended, and she is incredibly proud of the results, yet utterly exhausted by the process. So it nearly broke her heart when the agent came inside and immediately launched into a list of tasks that still needed to be done, rather than complimenting her on all her hard work thus far. Remember, our clients can become frayed by all the preparation we ask them to do. Decluttering isn't just time-consuming -- it's emotionally taxing. Sorting through years of accumulated memories and "neutralizing" rooms whose decor is highly personal can feel like the psychological equivalent of losing a limb. So giving your clients kudos for everything they have done well goes a long way toward keeping them feeling encouraged and optimistic about the process.

2. Constant Updates — Even when you don’t have anything to say, call. It makes a difference, because it gives the client peace of mind that everything that can be done is being done. You’d be shocked at how a simple 30-second phone call can make someone feel so much more at ease.

3. Empathy — There is nothing more important than the realization that the client is going through something extremely emotional. Don’t forget that one of your main jobs is to show empathy. You never know what is happening behind closed doors. The stress of cleaning, decluttering, staging, and packing is enormous. And that's not even taking into consideration the financial strain, the family pressures, the job worries, the daunting task of finding a new home, and all the keep-you-up-at-night fears about what the new home and neighborhood and life will be like. Give your clients all the emotional support you can muster. Trust me -- they need it!

When Spring Controls You and Other Calamities That Face the Busy REALTOR

by Darrin Friedman

Okay, so maybe you’re a little busy right now. Perhaps so busy that the chaos of your day is beginning to seep into your nightmares. You’re panicked you’ll forget something, terrified that you’ll overlook an appointment or omit some vital piece of information for one of your many clients, all of whom are suddenly demanding your attention.

The spring market is funny, isn’t it? One second you’re waiting around for things to get going, and then suddenly you’re on fire, without a moment to even stop and get something to eat.

So the question is, how do you manage the mayhem in your mind? Here are some tips that might help.

1. Control your schedule — If you planned on being with a client for 2 hours, then make it 2 hours -- don't let it turn into 2.5. That extra thirty minutes is necessary for you to regain your strength before the next meeting. Remember that you are in control of how you manage your time, not your clients. Don't ever allow your day to slip out of your control.

2. Don’t promise the impossible -- When you overcommit to helping too many people all at one time, you will inevitably let something get away. If you feel you are overcommitted, then you must admit it to yourself. Make an arrangement with a Realtor you respect and work a deal together. There is nothing wrong with asking for help.

3. Become the master of details — Details are everything in this business, and making sure you stay on top of them is vital. Whether you use a transaction management system, or you hire someone on your own, you must use your system or assistant consistently and diligently. My advice is to hire people you can trust. Failing that, in most companies, transaction management is offered. Use it.

Try to remember that spring is supposed to be a wonderful time of year! But take control of it, so that it unfolds on your terms.

That Dirty Little Word: Prospecting

By Darrin Friedman

So here is a little history about me: I was an agent for 5 years and a manager for almost 7. In that time, there were things I was good at and things I was bad at. There were things I enjoyed doing and things I loathed doing.

Can you guess where I’m going here? There was nothing, absolutely nothing, I abhorred more than prospecting. Seriously, it drove me insane. The idea of picking up the phone every single day and calling people I didn’t know drove me insane.

Now, let's forget the fact that I was actually fairly successful whenever I did manage to get on the phone and drum up business. My success did not in any way change the reality that the process felt to me like sheer torture.

So how can someone like me make prospecting a little less painful for themselves?

Use Rewards to Minimize the Rejection Factor

Usually the biggest complaint about prospecting is the awful feeling of being repeatedly rejected. Well, yes, unfortunately, rejection is an unavoidable part of the process. However, what if you make it a game with yourself? What if you distance yourself from the sting of rejection by making it a point to reward yourself for every success you have? Nothing big -- just some gesture of kindness to yourself that helps reinforce the positive and reminds you of how well you can do if you stick with it. 

Commit to Consistency

From my experience, the only way prospecting works is through consistency. If you make it a habit, it will work. If you do it only every once in a while, you may get lucky here and there, but you won't find the proverbial gold at the end of the rainbow that you are hoping for. Promise yourself that you will do just a little bit every day and the consistent effort will bring surprising results.

Have a Strategy

The simple fact is that whether you are a Brian Buffini person or a Tom Ferry person, if you work through a prospecting strategy every day, you will succeed. It will amaze you how fast you will find yourself gaining momentum when there is a method to your madness.

So the next time you find yourself dreading the phone, remember that each call you make is an opportunity. Every person you contact may become your next client. And let's be honest: stumbling upon new clients is pretty darn exciting.

The “Friending” Dilemma - Should You Accept?

By Darrin Friedman

If you’re in the field of real estate and spend any time on Facebook at all, you no doubt receive plenty of friend requests. The requests tend to come in waves, often from people you probably do not know directly, but who have connections or friendships that overlap with people in your sphere.

We Realtors are, after all, a gregarious bunch, and we seem to need constant affirmation from each other. Moreover, many of us were taught early on in the rise of social media never to turn down a new connection. After all, every single friend request — no matter how obscure the source — is a potential future client,  or referral source, right?

So tell the truth: do you feel obligated to click “accept” more often than you choose “decline?”

I do. And to be honest, at this point I do it more out of habit than for any sound reason or justifiable purpose. The new friend is notified, and just like that, the social media gods have racked up yet another victim.

But why do we do it? Do we ever develop any concrete relationships with these people? Perhaps occasionally, but certainly not very often. The most likely outcome is that we will never interact with these “friends,” and they will become just another relationship that was doomed before it ever had a chance to develop.

The fact is that “friends” on Facebook are what you make of them. If you interact with them in positive ways, they can indeed turn into something meaningful, from a referral source to an actual friendship. But if relationships with these people are not cultivated, their presence can become an annoyance, and the constant distractions from the content they post can actually slow you down and make you less productive.

Now, I am not suggesting that you “unfriend” your existing network (although that can be a great exercise, one day when you have a chance). I am merely suggesting that you consider becoming more judicious about the people with whom you choose to form new connections. Remember that your children, and your spouse, and your entire life is being displayed on this medium every day. Do you honestly want strangers seeing this stuff?

The number of friends you have on Facebook should not be a contest; it should be a carefully considered decision. Whom you choose to friend is a refection of your values. So, the next time a person asks to become your “friend,” take a second to ponder what that means. Because the facts are, some people may not deserve to be.

Ready to Take Your First Steps Toward an Investment Property? Here's Help!

Spring just seems to have a way of making things blossom; buds begin to bloom, seeds begin to grow and even many creatures bring new life into the world in springtime. In perfect coordination with spring, the real estate industry also seems to blossom during this season of renewal. As the spring home-buying season begins to heat up, it may have current homeowners looking for a way to make their own bank accounts bloom by investing in available real estate.

But, diving into a real estate investment may also make first-time investors feel a lot like one of nature’s brand new babies attempting to take its first steps in the world. Where to begin? What are the first steps to investing in real estate?

A great first step is deciding what type of investment best suits you. Basically, there are two routes that first-time investors often go. The first is buying a property with intent to become a landlord. The second route is buying a property with plans to flip and sell it.

When buying real estate with plans to become a landlord, investors need to realize all that they will be responsible for, including the mortgage, taxes and costs of maintaining their new property. Of course, the perk here is that a tenant will be contributing to those costs. Many landlords charge enough rent to cover all of the above costs and some even charge more, so that they see profit right away. Ultimately, a real estate investor/landlord makes their profit once the property is paid in full or it appreciates to a value higher than the amount due, leaving a valuable asset the investor can either sell or continue to rent out.

Becoming an investor/landlord may sound like a fool-proof way to make a profit, but you also need to consider the time it may take to occupy your investment property. Rental properties also can come with tenant issues, like late payments or property damage. Some landlords choose to hire a property manager to take care of their day-to-day tenant issues. Of course, that comes with a fee. In these instances, the landlord may see negative cash flow, but by choosing an investment property in a highly-sought rental area, landlords can help ensure a positive cash flow.

Investment groups also exist for investors who may not be interested in being a landlord. These groups may share ownership of an apartment or condominium. Though a single investor may own one or more units, typically a company manages and maintains every unit within the property. Certainly, the management company collects a percentage of the monthly rent, but the investor is freed from some of the traditional landlord roles. Many see investment groups as a safer way to delve into a real estate investment.

Buying a property to flip and sell is another route for people looking to invest in real estate. Often times, investors will seek low-cost properties that need a little tender loving care. They’ll make the necessary repairs, renovations or other improvements then list the home for sale at a price that more than covers what they paid in total. This option is great, assuming that investors have the upfront capital to make all needed home improvements. Selecting the right property to flip in a sought-after area is also very important, so that once the home is flipped, it does not sit on the market for long.

Researching the real estate market and working with a trusted agent are great ways to help select the right real estate investment property. Contact an experienced Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty agent for help in taking your first steps toward investing in real estate today.

Facebook is not real life

By Darrin Friedman

Yesterday, while scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I saw something remarkable. A friend of mine was at a Chevy dealership buying (or so it seemed from the photos) a brand-spanking-new Corvette. Now let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, the car in said pictures was hot -- so hot it belonged on a Car and Driver magazine cover. There he stood, proud and beaming, next to his new ride. It said one thing to me: he had made it.


Now let me say this, because I want to be clear: I am proud of my friend. He has worked very hard for a long time, and he deserves all the awesomeness life has to offer, including hot-rod cars.


But what immediately followed the feeling of being happy for my friend was a darker thought that bothered me. Should I feel bad about myself because I can't buy a Corvette?


These days, these kinds of feelings are hardly isolated incidents, thanks to social media. There are a lot of people on Facebook who like to share their day-to-day material triumphs. Every day I see photos of friends vacationing in some far-off beach paradise, or pictures of a renovated kitchen with brand new Viking appliances, or a recent portrait session capturing a perfect family on their immaculate front lawn.


We all have friends who have made it big and are proud to show it. (And truth be told, many of my "friends" on Facebook are people I don't even know or interact with in real life.) But, depending on how much we know about those people's actual lives, sometimes it can be easy to slip into the habit of feeling bad about yourself when you see how picturesque others' lives seem to be.


When these feelings of inadequacy surface, what's a person to do? Well, I try and focus on what I know. I try to hold on to the realization that I have tremendous value.


Let me say it again. We all have tremendous value.


We may not have everything that others have, and we certainly may not be able to show off comparable materialistic accomplishments to others, but we still have worth. Self-worth. And that is more valuable than an expensive vacay, or a shiny car, or a model home.


After all, whatever your life circumstances may be, you determine all of the important things of value: what kind of friend you are, or how lovingly you parent, or how committed you are to the causes you believe in -- even what kind of advocate you are for you clients. All of these things have immeasurable value. You determine what kind of person you are and what you give to this world. And that has tremendous value.


You determine your own self-worth, and Facebook be damned, because a status update simply doesn't do a person justice.


So, the next time you see someone's life looking a little finer than what you perceive yours to be, remember, we are all at different places, and we may be in this for different reasons. No one's life is nearly as perfect as it looks online, and even if it were, that doesn't mean yours is any less valuable. We must decide for ourselves how we will measure our own success ... and our true worth. Remembering that makes all the difference in the world.

How to avoid self destruction

By Darrin Friedman


Are you tired?

You should be. After all, real estate professionals have an exhausting job. It’s one where you never stop. Your phone rings and you answer it. Your device buzzes and your eyes go to it. Even when someone else’s device buzzes, your body’s response is to tighten into a stressful mess of nervous twitches.

The fact is we have all become a collective ball of reactionary anxiety. Admit it: We are spinning out of control.

Doesn’t feel so good, does it?

I often come across articles about living a more stress-free life. You know, one of those “five tips” thingies that are supposed to make us feel better about ourselves.

That’s not what this piece is about. I have no intention to even pretend that I know the one special tip that will make you feel better about our communal state of emotional disrepair.

Further, most of the advice columns you read about the subject of reducing stress are so self-evident. Deep breaths, you say? Yeah, that’s earth-shattering. Moreover, the writers often have no clue how to make their advice realistic or applicable in the world of real estate sales. I mean, can you imagine not being immediately responsive to a client? They don’t care what time it is. And let’s be honest: You’re up anyway. When a call comes in at 10 p.m. from one of your clients who’s angry, upset, or despondent, are you really going to let that go to voicemail? Of course you aren’t. It’s professional suicide. Or at the very least, that’s how we have come to perceive it.

But perhaps there is a new way out of our self-created mutual destruction; something we could work on or agree to where our reactions can be a healthy choice instead of a detrimental move to self-sabotage. In that spirit, I submit to you a couple of different ways we can change this paradigm. (Yes, this is ending up as a “tips” column. Sorry.)

  1. During dinner with your family, put your phone in another room. Why tempt yourself? You know and I know: If it remains in your pocket, you’ll look. And you know and I know that every time you look, you will take a little piece of happiness from the person sitting across from you. Believe me, whoever is on the other side of the phone or text will wait 20 minutes. I promise you, it will be okay.
  2. Make a deal with your spouse. This one comes from my therapist, so you know it’s for real. Whether it is for 20 minutes, 10 minutes, or your own specified time period, commit to connecting with your spouse at home. Put down the phone, put away the devices, and actually connect. Don’t talk about clients or work. Talk about them. Talk about your kids. Get grounded in the real world that is your stable, happy place. This serves to remind you why you do all the crazy stuff without actually being swept up in all the crazy stuff. If you make it a habit, you will be surprised by how effective and healing it can be.
  3. Do something for you (also therapist-approved). Do anything in the world that you enjoy. Whether it’s a painting class, book club, community theater—I don’t care what; just don’t make it about finding clients! Do it to fill your soul. You’ll be shocked how fulfilling this can be, especially when you don’t make it about getting a sale.

I’m not claiming to have all the answers. But I do know this: If we don’t make a change for the better, we will eventually self-destruct. And I don’t know about you, but that is one activity that just doesn’t fit into my busy schedule.

The line that should not be crossed: When social media goes wrong

By Darrin Friedman


Although many people do not seem to realize it, there is a line that can all too easily be crossed on social media between what is acceptable and what is inappropriate. Unfortunately, we all have friends on Facebook, or the like, who use social media platforms to spew their unfiltered thoughts and feelings about whatever is going on in their lives, especially when their (usually negative) emotions are running high. However, as real estate agents, we do not have the luxury of indulging in this kind of juvenile behavior, despite the temporary satisfaction that such of freedom of speech may give.  

After all, if we were to take the liberty of posting whatever came into our minds at any given moment -- no matter how petty, judgmental, or hurtful the content -- our words could easily influence an existing or potential client, and not in a positive way! And just a single post, just one moment of weakness, can have a lasting impact on how others see us.

It has amazed me over the years just how foolish some of us can be about sharing our opinions online, and how carelessly and casually we may choose where and when to put them out there. Had a long and exhausting day out with a client? Just get online and slam them on Facebook! The agent on the other side of your deal is giving you a hard time? Put it out there for everyone to see! Mad at your manager? Let the whole wide world know about it. These are just a few of the self-destructive ways I have seen agents permanently wound themselves and their reputations online.

But this blog is about helping, not blaming. Allow me to share some ideas to help you stave off Social Media Madness when you feel it coming on:

1. Step away from the "post" button! If you are feeling mad, sad, angry, or frustrated, especially regarding anything business-related, you could cause yourself irreparable damage if you put it on Facebook for everyone to see. In fact, to avoid temptation during those moments when your tensions are running high, the best strategy is to shut off your device and store it out of your reach. Do anything to keep yourself away from accessing your social network at times when you most want to vent. Just turn it off. In addition to situations involving anger or other negative emotions, this advice applies to any time you are a) under the influence of something that impairs your judgment, or b) feeling especially passionate about a political or religious issue or event.

2. Handwrite how you feel. If you have to get your feelings off your chest, take out a pen and pad, and write a letter to yourself by hand. It's old school, yes, but it really helps, and it will most likely help soften that urge you had to post something incendiary. It may even be therapeutic; most people feel better after the process of journaling their feelings. It might even get to be a healthy habit!

3.  Talk to someone. Remove your thumbs from the keyboard, and instead use your phone the way it was originally intended: to reach out and call someone you trust. Phone a friend or loved one and air your frustration, sadness, or fury to them. There is nothing like an actual conversation with a supportive friend to help you feel better. And when you're finished, be sure to remind that person that you're always here to do the same thing for them whenever they need someone to talk them through a tough moment.

Your marketing efforts aren't working. Now what?

Whether you are a veteran agent with loads of experience, or  a newly licensed agent in the first year of creating a business, marketing yourself is one of the pillars of a career in real estate.

And if you have been advised well, you have a marketing plan that you filled out with a business coach or manager, and have been following it since the new year.

For some, however, the results are slim and the plan needs to be redone. The best advice is don't wait! Redo your plan now, and you might just stave off a marketing disaster. Here are some points:

Re-Define Success -- Sometimes the best thing you can do is analyze what it is to be successful. For instance, are your goals unrealistic? Has the market changed and therefore effected your business? Regardless, your efforts must be a pliable as the world in which you work. 


Know when to scrap an idea, no matter how much you've spent on it -- There is nothing more heartbreaking than spending a ton of money on an idea only to see it fail in one way or another. But sometimes the best thing you can do is switch gears and abandon the project. The simple fact is not everything works. You must be honest with yourself regardless of price tag. Besides, often times you will find that the next path is the one that bears fruit.


Keep it simple -- Stop trying to be brilliant. By keeping your marketing focused and simple you might find that the message will be more effective. Yes, there are people out there that do all this crazy marketing, trying to go viral with a song and dance, but remember what we are doing: we are marketing houses. The quality of your content is what matters, not your witty memes.


Application Heaven: Two Mobile Apps Every Agent Needs to Use Right Now

By Darrin Friedman

Every once in a while I go "app crazy," searching techie web pages for lists of the most highly rated applications for tablets and smartphones. I seek out those apps that everyone in the know seems to be talking about, then I race to the App Store to download them, play with them, and develop my own opinion.

Among the more recent discoveries of mine, there are two apps that are so drool-worthy that every real estate agent within reading distance of my words should drop what they are doing and download them. NOW.


1. mileIQ -- Tell the truth: every year around tax season, you wish you had done a better job of accounting for all those driving miles you put on last year, right? Whether heading to an open house, previewing homes, or carting your clients all over town, each and every one of those miles is tax deductible! But we all know that most agents do a lousy job of tracking these miles and end up losing out on vital deductions. Well, your days of lost deductions are over. Welcome to mileIQ -- an innovative mile-logging app that makes keeping track of where you go not just easy, but effortless. By using a GPS monitoring system that runs in the background of your mobile operating system, mileIQ keeps track of every single trip you take in your vehicle, without you having to remember to press a single button. All you have to do is sort the data by opening the app every once in a while to view a list of recent trips, then categorizing those miles by swiping left (for personal) or right (for business). You can even further subdivide your business trips with a one-touch system, sorting mileage into groups like meals, meetings and customer visits. I tend to open the app about once a week to do my swiping, but no worries if you're not that punctual -- the app saves the trip data no matter how long you wait to categorize it. I adore this app because it's the first mile tracker I have seen that doesn't require you to input anything yourself. It does it all for you! Oh, and the app is free to collect data for up to 30 trips per month -- enough for most agents.


2.  1Password -- Remembering all your passwords, logins, and credit card information is next to impossible, but storing them in one truly secure place is pretty difficult, too. Confession time: how many of us just put all this precious data on a spreadsheet and place it in Dropbox? For some that may be relatively efficient, but it's hardly safe! There is a much more secure and user-friendly solution: 1Password. This app is like a digital, cross-platform, virtual safety deposit box that stores all your vital info in one place. By running in the background of your operating system, this app can autofill your login and password, membership IDs, contact information, payment information, and any other data you choose when logging into web pages or filling out forms online. And because it is cloud-based, the app's data can be shared across your smartphone, desktop, and tablet. You can even save private notes to yourself or any other text-based data you want to keep secure. And like the name suggests, all you need to do now is remember one password; the rest is up to the app! I can't recommend this one highly enough. Try it today.


Great Expectations -- What Every Consumer Should Expect from their Realtor

By Darrin Friedman

Choosing the right real estate agent for yourself can be a somewhat confusing experience. After all, there are choices everywhere! From your aunt who has been in the business so long she used to complete transactions on typewriters instead of computers, to your ex-roommate who got his license 6 months ago -- your options are numerous. But that's not what this blog is about. (If you're looking for guidance on how to choose the right person, check out this blog here).

This post is about realistic expectations that the consumer should have of their agent once they have chosen that person. Although the word "realistic" can have different meanings from one person to another, this is what I believe to be a good starting point for all parties:


1. Responsiveness: In today's world of instantaneous communication, people are used to sending and receiving messages and obtaining information within seconds. Which begs the question, how long is a realistic time to wait for a response from your agent? Well, between the hours of 8:30am and 6:30pm, seven days a week, the wait should be no longer than 5-10 minutes. Yes, really. Now, that response might not be super thorough -- it may have to be something quick and simple like, "I'll call you tomorrow when I am back in the office" -- but one way or another, the reply should be very prompt. In today's real estate landscape, that level of responsiveness is a reasonable expectation. Occasional lapses may occur, of course, if the agent is in the middle of a phone call or a closing, or is momentarily in a bad cell area. But 5-10 minutes should be the rule of thumb.


2. Knowledge of the Inventory: There is almost nothing more important than understanding the inventory of houses on the market, and how each house relates to the neighborhood in which it is located. Anyone can pull up a home listing online, but the standard listing information doesn't tell the whole story. A great agent should be able to fill in many blanks for their buyers. They can tell you why a house is or is not a good investment based on not just the countertops and the yard, but the flood potential of the parcel of land on which it rests, the distance to the nearest public transportation stop, and the location of boundary lines between school systems. It is reasonable to expect that your agent will know the recent and current comparable properties and can tell you exactly how the listing you're considering compares, and how that affects its value.


3. Knowledge of the Transaction: This may seem obvious, but it is critical that your agent truly understands the transaction process. From knowing the purpose and significance of every legal document, to explaining every moment during a home inspection, you should expect -- no, demand -- that your agent has outstanding knowledge of the law and the ins and outs of legal contracts. If you discover too late that the agent you chose does not possess this level of expertise, make sure that you get the agent's broker involved. That is how you stay protected.


4. The Ultimate Calming Influence: Lastly, you should expect calm from your agent. And not just a normal level of calm -- you need the kind of calm that can smooth the waters of a tidal wave. After all, that is why you hired an agent: to allay your fears and reduce your stress level! Buying or selling a home is stressful for even the most cool-headed buyers, which means that you need your agent's strength and emotional resilience to help you get through. Don't settle for a nervous Nellie -- find someone who exudes serenity like a Zen master. That is your dream agent.

That Funky Little Thing Called a Business Plan

By Darrin Friedman

Tell the truth. You hate your business plan. No, better yet, you loathe it with the same kind of pure hatred with which Grumpy Cat hates, well, everything. 

But why? Well, for many agents it is an agonizing process to create, follow, and keep accountable to a document that we have come to know as an unavoidable yearly process. Moreover, for many, once it is created, we just put it away so it can never be seen again. After all, out of sight and out of mind is so much safer, isn't it?

Well, what if you tried something different?

What if you kept it out -- available and in your face so that it stares at you with its beady little eyes, daring you to look away?

If you did that, how would you feel now? Different, right? 

I'll even give you permission to change the goals on it, as long as you keep it out.  

The fact is business plans can radically affect how we do our business -- not only on a yearly basis, but on a daily one.

It can influence everything we do, from how we interact with people within our sphere to clients we have yet to meet. 

All I'm saying is if you have the right plan from the beginning, you will save yourself heartache and the inevitable despair that comes later.

And that is how you determine your future.

Building a Brand that Matters

How Agents can transform themselves and their career through an effective brand strategy

By Darrin Friedman

Regardless of what point an agent is in their career they are confronted with a simple fact: they are their brand. Whether they realize it or not, they are a product in a marketplace, chosen by consumers for one reason or another to fulfill a service. 

The question is was this brand strategically created, or just some organic mesh of unrelated events that created it -- a bi-product of confused layers of inferiorly organized ideas?

For most, it's the latter. But it's okay. It's not too late. We are going to fix it. Here are 3 simple ways to strategically create a brand that you can be proud of.


1. Discover who you are -- It's time to start defining yourself. Take out a piece of paper and jot down 10 things that make you truly unique. And, no, if you write down "I like Houses" or "I like People" you are doing the exercise incorrectly. Push yourself. Don't make them real estate related. If you like gardening, write it. If you are into musical theater, write it. Search yourself for what makes you, you. By the time you have finished the list you should discover the basic foundation of what makes you tick, which is a great start.

2. Put the words together -- Take your list and put the words together into a narrative that the consumer will understand. The last thing they want to hear is that you are a people person. Everyone says that. What they don't know is that you love to sing. Let's see what we can do with that... "As a trained singer of more than 20 years I have learned the discipline that helps me achieve great results for my clients." See? It's about making your likes and achievements about them. Try it out and see how it works for you. Just remember, you are writing a narrative, not a list. You are aiming for about 300 words. Make them count!

3. A Brand is about consistency -- Once you have your narrative complete it's time to share it. Use the narrative as a bio anywhere the consumer can find you. Apple doesn't vary based on site or network, neither should you. Be clear, consistent, and proud of who you are.


For those agents, and organizations for that matter, who want to truly achieve in our industry, strategic branding is essential. Like that of any other product, it needs to be nurtured, maintained, and grown until it saturates a marketplace. By following these lessons, you should be well on your way.


To Team or Not to Team? That Is the Question

By Darrin Friedman

For many agents in the real estate industry, there comes a time when they must answer one fundamental question: does teaming with one or more other agents benefit me, or should I remain in business by myself as a solo agent?

Historically, the question of forming a team has usually come later in the evolution of one's real estate business, when an agent has achieved a certain level of competence and productivity. The agent may become inundated with more business than she can reasonably handle alone, or perhaps he may begin to feel that sharing the responsibilities of client service and other business matters with a complementary player would help him achieve even greater success.

Though this is still often the case, recently the industry has also seen a new trend in which less experienced agents are joining together in hopes that they can do better and grow faster with each others' help.

Regardless of whether you are a veteran or a newer agent, here are some important points to consider before you enter into any kind of team or partner arrangement:


1. A partnership is just like a marriage -- You and your new partner will be "married" in a business sense, and you can't take that lightly. Just as you would before choosing a spouse, before you partner with someone, you must consider many factors and ask yourself the really important questions: Does this person believe in doing business the same way I do? Do we share similar philosophies and values? Is this the kind of person I can trust with my very livelihood? Do our strengths and weaknesses complement each other well? You will be spending a LOT of time with this person, and your financial futures depend on each of you doing your designated jobs well. If you can't trust your partner completely -- if you have even a moment of hesitation -- then this is not the right person with whom to join forces.


2. A team is more than just a slogan; it's a business model -- Choosing to go into business with another person requires a thorough business strategy. After all, it's a business model that requires serious planning. If you and your potential partner are considering the team route, get advice from people who have done it. Ask them if they are willing to share their business plan with you, then take it to your business coach and use it as a model. Only then can you confidently go forward, knowing you are choosing the right path and doing so in a way that others have done well before you.


3. Couples therapy is not for wimps -- Every strong team sometimes needs outside help. It is inevitable. When communication breaks down, or ideas clash, or business styles differ, guidance from an impartial third party can be an invaluable way to help you and your partner work together more effectively. Some of the most successful business teams out there work so well together because they arrange regular appointments with a therapist or coach on a monthly or quarterly basis. Make an investment in your new team by hiring an objective professional to teach you how to work better together. Trust me -- you will be happier and healthier in the long run!

Whether you are brand new agents or seasoned veterans, forming a team can be a rewarding experience. Just make sure you do so with your eyes wide open. If you don't, the road can be rocky and unnecessarily unpleasant. The trick is to set yourselves up for success by investing in good planning. Don't be afraid to seek advice, guidance, and yes, even therapy, and you will do just fine.

Cold Feet? Don't Worry. It's a Common Ailment

By Darrin Friedman

You've been searching for weeks or even months, trying to find the home that fulfills all your dreams -- the place where you can imagine your children (or future children) playing in the yard, and where you can come home to the sanctuary you deserve.

And hooray! You've finally found The One! You love this home, and know you are going to be happy there. Your contract is ratified and you are on the way to home ownership.

But then something begins to gnaw at you. At first it's just a little crumb of self-doubt. "Can I really afford it?" you mull over dinner with friends. You know you can, but the questions persist even through dessert.

Then the next day during a meeting at work, you can't stop thinking about that closet in the third bedroom, the one you have designated as your crafting/sewing/eBay room. Is it really big enough?

Later, during a conversation with your mother (who is so proud of you for being able to buy the home in the first place), you agonize over the kitchen. After all, it has a gas oven, like you wanted -- but maybe you should have electric because everyone says it is easier to clean.

The next thing you know, everything you loved about the house is suddenly driving you crazy with worry, and you don't know what to do.

Welcome to what we in the biz call "cold-feet-itis." And you know what? You're not alone. It happens to everyone.

The fact is that buying a home is a huge undertaking, and the emotional toll it takes on those going through it is very real. As REALTORS®, our job is to help you through the process -- the emotional one as well as the logistical one -- and to see you through to the happy ending on the other side.

But in the meantime, here are some tips on how you can survive cold-feet-itis with your health and your self-confidence intact.

1. Remember and trust your first reaction -- You wrote that contract for a reason. You loved that house, and you were certain that it was the right one for you. Hold on to that feeling! Everything that comes afterwards is just the inevitable emotional stuff that happens to everyone. If you didn't have cold feet, there would be something wrong with you. Just try to focus on all the reasons you fell in love in the first place, and plow forward from there. It will be over soon.

2. Trust your REALTOR®-- You chose them for a reason. You have entrusted yourself in their capable hands. They are there to help you through this time. Believe me, they are experts at this part of the process. Unload your worries and fears on them, and they will help you feel better.

3. It's temporary -- These feelings will pass. As you move from one part of the transaction to another, you will find there will be other things with which to concern yourself. Know this and feel confident that both you and your REALTOR® can handle them if you work together.

In the end, cold-feet-itis is a normal affliction that everyone goes through. Not only is it nothing to worry about, but it is actually central to the process. Suffering through this illness alone is the only part that is truly unnecessary. Let the people that love you and represent you help you through it, because as with many things in life, social support is the best medicine of all.

Does 'Hyperlocalism' Help or Hurt Our Business?

By Darrin Friedman

Over the past couple of years, those on the more innovative end of the real estate industry spectrum have become fans of “hyperlocalism” -- the practice of marketing oneself as THE expert on a very specific (and sometimes quite small) niche market or geographic area. Many have touted hyperlocalism as the new frontier of doing business in the digital age of social media marketing. And why not? The results can be quite dynamic.

From Search Engine Optimization (better known as Google juice) to street credibility within a community (online or otherwise), some Realtors embracing hyperlocalism have enjoyed tremendous returns from online leads based on their efforts to frame themselves as the optimal resource to those searching for in-depth information about a particular area.

Of course, many copycats have followed suit, making a serious push to ensure an online territory and branding themselves with the town, neighborhood, and sometimes even the street of their choice. They believe that the time spent doing so will give back in spades, only to discover that the gold rush isn’t what they hoped for ... or had been promised.

Whether it is a blog promising “365 Things to Do in _______ Town" (yes, I was guilty of that) or yet another generic Facebook Community page, many of the late adopters to the hyperlocal marketplace are finding it difficult to make their way in the suddenly crowded space.

Furthermore, even the most adept hyperlocal marketers face challenges. For one thing, consumers can be brutally harsh judges when searching sites for truly new and inspired information, and some have the annoying habit of making their displeasure with trite content very publicly known.

Then there's the issue of what happens when a potential client wants to consider a home outside of your carefully branded area. The danger of pigeon-holing oneself as an expert in only one thing is a dilemma -- one that makes hyperlocalism potentially problematic as more and more embrace it on Facebook Community pages, Google+, and the traditional blog.

Now, I’m not saying sophisticated marketers should not use Facebook, blogs, YouTube, or any other tool they can to impress upon potential clients that they have serious market knowledge. However, sometimes these channels expose those who need to learn to crawl before they sprint. Social media can function like a self-service detective tool, making it easy for the public to dismiss agents as frauds before ever giving them a chance to show their value.

The reality is that hyperlocalism takes experience and savvy to pull off successfully, and it can kill a person’s credibility faster than almost anything else. If you think you're up for it, here is a short list of “musts” that I urge you to consider:


1. If you say on a Facebook Community page that you know a neighborhood better than anyone else out there, you'd better be telling the truth! Don’t just throw up a page with some graphics and iPhone pictures and say you know what you don’t. Study. Research. Become the expert instead of just saying so. Use linkable PDF documents that show real value. Be a reporter. Show that you care. Being the "real deal" is the only way to keep them coming back.

2. If you market yourself as specializing in one very specific thing, and then you encounter a consumer who says they went to another agent because they figured you only did that thing, you need to be able to address that problem with credibility and confidence. I know an agent who marketed himself as the “Loft Guy." Well, that may be a terrific niche market for those who are certain they want to buy a loft, but what if a buyer wants to look at non-loft properties? Would the agent turn away that business? Moreover, how much potential business is he losing when people simply assume that he cannot or will not help them? At the very least, you need to have an answer ready for those who inquire about your willingness and ability to work outside of your hyperlocal area. Find credible ways to be able to do both.

3. Script practice is vital. You need to be prepared to respond to a multitude of objections regarding your online presence, and you must never be embarrassed by or apologize for your content.

In the end, hyperlocalism can work beautifully for those who are committed to developing a comprehensive strategy behind it. Just remember, you can’t fake it — social media is too unforgiving, and a search engine's memory is very, very long.

Is Gentrification a Dirty Word

By Darrin Friedman

In most major metropolitan areas in recent years, the process of "gentrification" -- the revitalization and subsequent rehabitation of urban districts long forgotten -- has become as commonplace as it was 50-60 years ago. The main difference is that back then, the pilgrims were all moving in the opposite direction: descending into the wilderness of the suburbs to make lives for their families far away from the downtown hustle of city life.

Back then, the allure of these suburban enclaves was obvious, whether city residents were trying to escape the aftermath of race riots or simply longing to experience all the prefabricated glory of newly built homes on a quarter-acre of land with the promise of green space and untapped opportunity. At that time in history, the traveler crossing into the great suburban unknown was seeking a new kind of living.

Today, with their children grown and their nests emptied, a new generation -- in fact, often the children and grandchildren of those original pilgrims -- are flocking back to where they came from, the glory of a glamorous and exhilarating life in the city calling them back to their places of origin.

But in order for each major redevelopment site to be established, another block of older, more run-down, less expensive homes has to be demolished. And this is the "ugly side" of gentrification -- the displacement of the less fortunate to make way for the more prosperous.

Across America, in every major city, those with money are displacing those without.

It is true. It is fact.

Some cities have handled it better than others, establishing programs centered around helping those in lower income brackets achieve the dream of home ownership. But the simple fact of the matter is that these days, the very neighborhoods in which some residents were born and grew up are now unaffordable to them.

After all, these neighborhoods are now the "trendy" place to live, with chic restaurants and loft-style condo developments. They are bursting with organic food markets and gleaming stadiums and swanky businesses that have completely obliterated the older neighborhoods that stood before. For decades, city governments have proudly called this trend "revitalization.”

Many cities have now experienced a complete turn-around in citizenry, demographics, businesses, and housing values. These "revitalized" cities have rediscovered themselves and been reborn, offering everything a person could want -- that is, of course, if a person can afford it.

Please do not misunderstand. The rebirth of the American city is a wonderful thing. It has proven to be one of the most important trends of the last 20 years, driving the real estate industry (and so many other industries) to enormous heights and pouring wealth and resources into these cities' needy economies.

However, many people -- including many families who were the original residents of these neighborhoods generations ago -- have been left behind. Some might even say "driven out." And frankly, that makes me sad. After all, we should all be moving forward together. 

9 Apps Every Agent Should Use

Evernote: iOS & Android - FREE 

By far the best productivity tool on the market. Evernote saves everything -- from the photo of your receipt from lunch, to the pdf of the plane ticket you just bought, to a running tally of your business mileage. Evernote even cross-syncs on the cloud so all your devices have the same information. And if you want to get truly funky, Evernote has a print line that allows you to write with a smart pen and input your handwritten notes. It is a beast every REALTOR should have.


Dropbox: iOS & Android - FREE 

Let's face it, the years of carrying around all your paperwork is over. But as REALTORS, we rely on papers. That is why Dropbox is so important. It stores everything and allows you to share, print, download, and save whatever you need from any location. It is the ultimate mobile hard-drive. 


Clear: iOS & Android - $4.99 (GTI tasks for Android)

A to-do list and reminders app that makes you more productive. It’s as easy to use as pen and paper, and once you start organizing your life with Clear you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. 


EasyMeasure: iOS & Android – FREE

A nifty tool that calculates the distance to any object seen through the camera lens of your smartphone or tablet. Just aim the camera at the object you wish to measure, and a 3D camera overlay grid appears displaying the distance as well as other dimensions of the object. This app is a REALTOR's best friend for calculating room dimensions and other physical  aspects of a property.


Glympse: iOS & Android – FREE

Glympse is a fast, free and simple way to share your location using GPS tracking in real time with friends and family! No sign up required! Only those you share with can view your Glympse from any web-enabled device.


Hyperlapse: iOS & Android – FREE

Create amazing time lapse videos with Hyperlapse. Using Instagram’s in-house stabilization, Hyperlapse shoots polished time lapse videos that were previously impossible without bulky tripods and expensive equipment. 


SentriSmart: iOS & Android – FREE

Open and manage SentriLock lockboxes with your smartphone.


Roomscan: iOS – FREE (Android alternative MagicPlan)

RoomScan draws floor plans all by itself - just touch each wall with your phone!


Waze: iOS & Android – FREE

Waze is one of the world's largest community-based traffic and navigation apps. Join drivers in your area who share real-time traffic & road info to save time, gas money, and improve daily commuting for all.

Choosing the Right Business Coach

By Darrin Friedman

In a well crafted article posted recently by Inman News, Teke Wiggin discussed the value that our industry places on the hired real estate coach. He supplied survey results to corroborate his findings that, in the end, the return on investment usually outweighs the cost of these programs.

However, the article brings up one of the deep, dark secrets of the real estate industry that I think we need to address openly: people love to take money from real estate agents. Some of them are nationally recognized real estate coaches touting the latest and greatest mechanisms for success, while others are lone wolves who target the proverbial "low-hanging fruit" among agents -- the ones desperately seeking help and not sure where to find it. Unfortunately, while some of these "experts" may be truly gifted coaches, others are shameless opportunists, predatorily feasting on agents who are in need of guidance. They may be selling a surefire "system," sessions of expert coaching, or just sheer faith, and according to Wiggin's survey, the largest cost segment for such services is over $400 dollars a month. I'm not sure about you, but to me that seems like a heavy investment to make when you may be bringing in little or no monthly income.

The most basic problem with relying on paid vendors for coaching is simple: they have no skin in the game. There are simply no repercussions if these coaches-for-hire do not achieve results worthy of their exorbitant cost. But the beautiful truth is that there is a way to get help at no cost from people who are invested in you as an agent, and not in your wallet.

It comes down to this: the person most directly tied to your success is the person with whom you have affiliated. A talented and highly functioning broker or office manager is the person most doggedly determined to make you thrive.

The other problem with coaches-for-hire and their "systems" is that, quite simply, no single approach is right for everyone. It's about diversity. Indeed, perhaps the most maddening element of system-oriented coaching is that dogma usually wins out. The coaching is built on a system, and the system is built on a creed that, by definition, prevents other systems from infiltrating it. Even the most liberal of coaching systems are created in such a way that prevents you from using other systems simultaneously. In an ecosystem like the real estate industry of today, one thing is clear more than any other -- DIVERSITY must win out. Only when multiple approaches and styles are tried, modified, and even combined can most agents fully reach their potential. Therefore, while it's okay to go to seminars, try out new systems, and take classes to learn different ways of doing things, remember that no one method has to cancel out all the others. Very often, each system you try will have some nuggets of wisdom you can take away, which means that the more proven strategies you combine to create your own individual master system, the better off you will be.

Which brings us back to the person who, most likely, has had the experience with multiple systems and can fine tune something best for you: the office manager.

In most cases this person has already experienced the many trainers out there and can help influence you in a way that makes sense for you. After all, who knows you better? The person who you chose to be your business partner or a vendor from some remote location.

You be the judge. 

New Year? New Career! It's Time to Get Real About Real Estate

Now that the holidays are over and we’re into 2015, it is time to begin keeping all of those resolutions that you set for the new year. Maybe you’ve already put your “exercise more, eat less” plan into effect; maybe you’ve already abandoned that same notion; but, what has come of that professional goal you set for the new year? Have you begun to think about how you can achieve career success in 2015?

Start by determining what is important to you when it comes to your career. Is it:

Being in charge of your own business?

Setting your own hours?

Getting paid for the amount of work that you actually put in?

If those are things that you would like to achieve in 2015, this could be your year to begin a career in real estate. In fact, you could achieve all of that and more by becoming a professional real estate agent. Self-motivated, energetic individuals have the potential to earn six-figure, commission-based salaries by working in the real estate industry.

Of course, it sounds great; but, how do you get there?

Actually, unlike some of the weighty resolutions above, resolving to work in real estate in 2015 is a very attainable goal. To be a licensed real estate professional in Pennsylvania, there are two 30-hour courses that you must complete. Following those courses, you’ll take the licensure exam and, upon passing, you’ll eligible to receive your very own real estate license!

If you choose a real estate career with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty, we even offer free review sessions to help prepare for the Pennsylvania’s licensing exam. But, those are not the only perks of working at one of our 18 western Pennsylvania offices.

The Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty team offers unbeatable new agent training and additional agent services, like free office space and use of all office equipment, free access to our content management system and intranet, free marketing materials, free web listings and professional listing photos and free continuing real estate and management education. Yes, that all comes along with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty team member title! Talk about a career with some serious upward potential!

Making a career change to real estate in 2015 may be a huge decision, but it is not one that you have to go through alone. If you still feel nervous about kick-starting your real estate career in the new year, you should know that the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty management team serves as mentors and our support staff are on-site to assist you with one-on-one training to get you started. They’ll cover all the basics and even help you determine your business plan.

If your New Year’s resolutions include being your own boss, setting your own hours and getting paid for the amount of time you spend working, maybe it’s time to add “working in real estate” to your 2015 goal list. Get started today by learning more about an exciting real estate career with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty here.

How to Interview Real Estate Agents

By Darrin Friedman

You may have noticed that there are a whole lot of real estate agents out there in the world, any one of whom would be thrilled to have your business. From your mother's best friend's nephew--you know, the kid who got his license at night and has never actually helped a single person purchase a home--to the top agents in your region who represent the very best of what the name REALTOR stands for, and everything in between, the sheer volume of practitioners can seem overwhelming for many consumers. 

Obviously it is critical that consumers find the right person to represent them in what is most often the largest financial transaction of a person's life. Considering the importance of this decision and the vast array of options from which to choose, you would think that most consumers would take their time and interview lots of agents before they decide on one.

Surprisingly, and sadly, this is not the case. Based on studies conducted by the National Association of REALTORS, the average consumer chooses the very first agent they meet, often without interviewing them thoroughly, and utterly fails to shop around and explore other options.

But the consumer is not entirely to blame. Unfortunately, for way too long, the real estate industry as a whole has not advocated well enough on behalf of the people we represent. We do not provide potential clients with sample questions they should ask, nor do we give names of alternative options they could consider. Now, you may find it difficult to imagine an agent giving a potential client information about their strongest competitors, but that is exactly the kind of transparency that is revolutionizing our industry.

Nonetheless, as far as the consumer's role is concerned, it comes down to asking intelligent questions. What questions should you ask an agent when sitting in that first meeting? Here are a few you may want to consider:


1. What should I expect in regard to how you communicate?

Communication is everything, and in any relationship it is best to outline clear expectations at the outset. If you strongly prefer texting over email, say so, but understand that your agent may not. If you have a tendency to delete lengthy voicemails without listening to them, warn the agent about this, as he or she may be a notorious marathon voicemailer. You are the consumer and ultimately you determine how this works, but the agent is likely to have his or her own style as well, and you both need to know how to accommodate one another. It's important that you are on the same page about communication as you begin what will most likely be an extended process.


2. May I have the contact information of the last three clients you helped? 

Who is in a better position to help you understand what your soon-to-be agent is really like than the people he or she has just recently helped to buy or sell a home? The agent will probably give you names of people whom they know will speak glowingly of their work, but in every conversation both positive and negative information can be gleaned. But if the agent shies away from giving you references altogether, suggesting instead that you simply read their online reviews, that is a huge red flag. Be wary of anyone who is not eager to let their former and future clients interact.


3. What areas do you believe to be your strengths, and what areas do you consider to be your weaknesses? 

Go ahead: put these agents on the spot! Help them self-examine. This question serves two purposes: 1) it gives you a good sense of the person's honesty, or at least their transparency, and 2) it helps you to prepare for what's ahead. No one is good at everything. Some agents are brilliant home marketers but not great negotiators; others are terrific negotiators but not great with contracts. Remember that no one is excellent at everything. You need to choose someone whose strengths align with what is most important to you. And if an agent has trouble coming up with any kind of an honest answer about his or her shortcomings, don't discount the significance of this problem! In any industry, professionals who do not know or cannot admit their own weak spots will be the first ones to fall prey to them.


4. Other than yourself, whom do you think is an outstanding REALTOR?

As we said at the outset, there are a lot of agents out there, and some of them are truly excellent. Good agents think of themselves as a community of service-oriented professionals, and the agent you are interviewing should think so as well. If your prospective agent cannot come up with at least three names of other agents whose skills and talent they admire, then he or she is either not self-confident enough to answer honestly or not truly a part of the larger community. Either way, this is another big red flag. On the other hand, if the agent speaks in glowing terms of others they would recommend, it will confirm their own confidence in their abilities, as well as how much they genuinely appreciate their top colleagues in the industry. Good for them, and good for you. You've found a good one. 


In the end, choosing the right person to represent you is a more important determinant of how the process will go than anything else. Take your time. Interview several people, get referrals, and talk to references, and in the end, make sure the person you pick feels exactly right for you. Because this partnership is going to be way too important in your life to leave it to chance.

Realistic Resolutions — Building Your Business in 2015

By Darrin Friedman

New Year's Resolutions say a lot about the previous year of our lives and about where we want to be in the future. They reflect our very human desire for wanting to remake ourselves into something better than what we are right now. 

Resolutions represent a unique opportunity -- to dream big about making changes in our lives, and to view ourselves in the best possible light as we move into the future. After all, losing 20 pounds always sounds more realistic and achievable after the holidays than it does at any other time of the year!

The process of making our business-related resolutions for the new year is very similar. Many of us may be pulling out a clean sheet of paper or creating a blank file to start drafting a fresh, new business plan, filling it with ambitious and promising numbers that represent how much better our production will be this year compared with last year. Just like losing that 20 pounds, adding 10 more transactions to our next year sounds perfectly achievable, right?

Of course the reality is that it's slightly more complicated than that. I can't tell you how to double your income with just a few simple tricks. However, if you really want to commit to some important changes for the new year and take some concrete steps to make a radical difference in your business, I do have a few specific ideas for you:


1. Become fearless. Guess what? You are in the sales business. It's time to start acting like it. Whether you are a disciple of Brian Buffini or Tom Ferry or someone else, they all teach one simple rule: tell everyone you meet in every conversation you have that you sell houses. After all, how else will people know? This year, you need to get out there and meet people where they are. Some of the most successful real estate agents I know actually sit in coffee houses for several hours a day with a sticker on their laptop that says, "I sell houses." Try being that fearless. It works.


2. Accept that Sunday is a work day. The day you became a real estate agent, you gave up the right to take Sundays off. If you aren't hosting an open house on a given Sunday, then you should be door-knocking in the neighborhood around someone else's open house. Pick 10 houses -- just 10 -- and invite the homeowners to a personal walk-through of the home by you. You may be extremely surprised by the results.


3. Buy Facebook ads. There is perhaps no better Return on Investment (ROI) than well designed and well executed Facebook ads. If you are holding an open house for someone, make an ad for it that links back to a Postlets or some other high-quality marketing piece that leads back to you, and target a specific neighborhood in your ad campaign. It's just like door-knocking, but with a greater reach. If you don't know how to do it, I can teach you. The fact is that you can spend $10 and get a terrific return.


4. Be persistent. On the first day of the year, write the following words on a piece of paper: "STAY THE COURSE." Put the paper in your wallet. On those days that you are tired, despondent, or just want to give up, take out the piece of paper and read it. Now get back to work.


Real estate is hard, but it is also rewarding. On the hard days, remember how many people you have helped in your career and how many more you have yet to help, and stay focused on that. Resolutions or not, it will make all the difference in the world. 

The Virtues of Accountable Service

4 Ways to Avoid Transactional Purgatory

By Darrin Friedman

Being a REALTOR means dedicating oneself to customer service above all else. Serving our community, our clients, and our fellow practitioners is one of the major responsibilities we accept when we affix a REALTOR pin to our lapel.

Furthermore, the REALTOR Code of Ethics is filled with words of wisdom, compelling us to treat each other, and our clients, with the kind of respect necessary to garner long-lasting and healthy relationships built on trust over many years.

So why is it that there seems to be so much discord among those with whom we work? Truth be told, there are few days that go by in which one doesn't hear of a REALTOR feeling frustrated because of the actions of another agent. And frustration can quickly turn into exasperation, which fuels the fire of that dreaded beast: the deal from hell. You know the kind I mean -- a transaction that leaves you weakened to your core and saddened that you ever decided to go into this business in the first place.

So how do we avoid these messes before they become truly hellish? Are there no strategies that can save a deal headed to transactional purgatory? Actually, there are. We just need to remind ourselves of some simple ways to defuse escalating tensions before they become unbearable.


1. Try honesty -- No one is suggesting that you break anyone's fiduciary responsibility. However, there are always opportunities to share information with the co-operating agent that will help establish trust. Trust means everything. Even if it's just something small, the fact that you shared information will beget goodwill and help smooth over the bumpy spots.


2. Try taking the blame -- Things go wrong. They always do. But the biggest mistake you can make is to play the blame game. Once you start down that road, it poisons any chance of a pleasant interchange. To turn things around and clear the air before it gets any worse, there is one truly powerful word you need to remember: "sorry." A sincere apology is truly magic. Even when you know the situation is not your fault, saying "sorry" can change everything. If the other person knows that they goofed, and yet you step up and take the blame, it will immediately allay their defensiveness and fill them with a sense of relief, which will defuse any anger and change the tone of the interaction in an instant. And if it really was you who erred, saying you're sorry shows that you are accountable and mature. Taking responsibility for mistakes is always the right thing to do, because it smooths ruffled feathers and lays the groundwork for pleasant future encounters. Just ask a preschooler: nothing is better than saying sorry. It can fix almost anything.


3. Try not being the big shot -- Maybe you have been doing this job awhile. Maybe you are really, really good at it, with dozens of transactions per year under your belt. If that is true, then believe me, the other agent knows it, and they are probably pretty intimidated by it. So why not do everything you can to make the other side feel good about themselves, too? The other agent may be nervous, if not downright scared, and all he or she wants to do is to get through this deal without screwing up. What a great chance for you to be the bigger person by offering encouragement instead of disdain! It costs you nothing to be kind, and it will give the other person so much confidence and gratitude that you can't even imagine. Positive feelings go a long, long way toward lasting trust.


4. Remember who you are doing this for -- This deal is about your client's happiness, not your own ego. You are your client's advocate, following a Code of Ethics to serve the consumer to the best of your ability. The second you forget that and start seeing other people as dollar signs, you have failed your client -- and yourself. It's about the customer and always will be. Never let a war with another agent consume you to the point that you lose sight of that.

The Next Generation in Real Estate

Five Tips for the Millennial Home Buyer

By: Darrin Friedman

The National Association of REALTORS says that nearly 40% of home buyers are first-time home buyers, and three quarters of those first-timers are Millenials (those born between 1978 and 1995). In other words, a lot of people between the ages of 19-36 are buying their first homes. This generation may be young, but its power is on the rise; the Brookings Institute reports that Millennials have more than 1.6 trillion dollars in buying power, with the average member of this group earning more than $60,000 in annual salary.

If you are a part of this new power generation, congratulations! You and your peers are a force to be reckoned with in real estate today. That doesn't mean, however, that you should run right out and buy a home just because you can. As consumers, you first need to consult with a real estate agent who will serve as your advocate, giving you all the facts and the kind of sound advice necessary to make the decision that is best for you.

If you or someone you know is a Millennial looking to buy a home, below are five tips to help you navigate the process:


1. Make sure buying makes sense for you. The key question to begin the consideration process is not "Can I afford to buy?" but rather "Should I buy?" To answer this, you'll need to ask yourself some tough questions: How transient am I at this point in my life? Is my job stable? Am I ready to put down roots? Can I see myself still living in this city in 3-5 years? If you think there's a strong possibility you'll want to move within 3 years, buying a home may not be a financially sound plan for you. In many markets, the rate of growth will not be sufficient to yield what you need if you sell again in just a couple of years. While it is impossible to predict the future, taking an honest look at your current lifestyle choices is critical in order to assess whether buying a home at this point in your life makes sense for you.


2. Talk to your parents. Guess what? They have most likely been through the home-buying process before, perhaps several times. Use them as a resource and you'll be surprised how helpful they can be. However, you should also remember that just because they offer advice as former sellers and buyers does not mean they know everything about this industry. Most people's parents are not experts in current day market conditions, negotiating, or contract law. You have a REALTOR for a reason. Use them. Be grateful that your parents want to give you input, and by all means listen to their opinions, but be aware of their limitations in what is an extremely regional -- and very complicated -- process.


3. Don't settle for a mediocre agent. There are literally thousands of real estate agents out there. Do your homework and find someone who really makes sense for you. Interview them and make sure that you are comfortable with them, because the process of buying a home is a sensitive one, and it helps if there is a connection. Take your time and find exactly the right person. And if you end up choosing someone only to discover later on that you have real problems with them, then by all means fire them. You have that right.


4. Be patient. Finding the right home needs to happen according to one person's time table -- yours. If anyone pushes you or makes you feel rushed, they are not the right advocate and do not truly have your best interest at heart.


5. You are in charge. There is nothing more important for you to understand than the consumer is in control of the decision making. You will not have control of every aspect of the sales transaction, of course -- things always happen that no one can foresee -- but your agent must listen to your needs and wants. They're not the one buying this house. You are.

Not Your Mother's Real Estate Search

What the Millennial home buyer can teach us about our past, present, and future

By: Darrin Friedman

Even 10 years ago, the average home buyer was not as young as buyers are today. According to NAR, nearly 40% of buyers are first-time home buyers, and Millennials (the generation born between 1995 and 1979) represent nearly 76% of that demographic. This new generation of real estate clients continues to drive the latest trends in how today's real estate professional needs to work and to market herself or himself.

Indeed, Millenials require more consideration, expect more attention, and demand a level of swift responsiveness that many REALTORS are not prepared to deliver.

But don't label the members of this generation as "selfish" or "high-maintenance." They are simply computer-age children who grew up in a high-tech world, and therefore they are used to being able to gather information much faster than their counterparts in previous generations.

In other words, Millenials want their information NOW. On their devices. In real time. Whether you can supply it or not. And if you cannot, you will no longer be representing them. After all, they have spent 9 months online researching other agents, and they can switch to one of them as fast as their thumbs can type a message.

But this does not have to be the case. Though Millennials are industrious and seek to gain information on their own, they are also aware of their own relative youth, and therefore many are quick to seek guidance from those in this industry who have years of experience under their belts.

That said, here are five tips on working with the Millennial home buyer, regardless of your own generational category:


1. Be in communication: You must be brutally honest about how you like to communicate and what your clients can expect from you in this regard. If you are not the best texter in the world but you check email several times a day, let them know that upfront. If you strongly prefer the phone and tend to convey information in lengthy voicemail messages, warn them of this habit. As long as you set the expectations, they should understand. Responsiveness is very important to them, but giving lip service to their preferred mode of communication and then not following through is a dreadful mistake. Just tell your client in the beginning how best to reach you, and then stick to that method.


2.  Understand their need to research: It has long been known that Millennials want to research and verify everything for themselves. Even though you may be the expert, they are not just going to take your word for it. Try not to let this frustrate you or make you feel that they don't trust you; just understand that, as a whole, this is how this generation is wired. Instead of acting offended, try to encourage their need for research by providing them with the URLs of websites that can help them with their analysis. They will be grateful for your candor, and that will increase their trust in you.


3. Be diplomatic with the parents: It is very likely that your client's parents will be involved in the purchase of a home in one way or another. Whether the parents are supporting their child monetarily, emotionally, or both, be prepared for the inevitable reality that parental opinions will influence this purchase. It's not easy trying to please everyone, but remember that you don't have to: ultimately the Millennial is your client, not his or her parents, and you must put the client's interest above all else. You may need to gently remind your client that their parents' advice, while obviously well intentioned, is sometimes based on outdated information or a different real estate market. You are the expert about your market and the present state of your industry; don't let your client forget that.


4. Never patronize: Hopefully this goes without saying, but you can NEVER afford to come across as condescending to this young but savvy group. Even if you are their parents' age, you are not their parent! Buying a home is a very adult responsibility, and your client is working hard to make it happen. Remind them what a momentous achievement this is, but keep their relatively young age out of it. Anyone who is lumped into a category can feel stereotyped; try not to do so with them.


5. Be yourself: Please, be yourself! Millenials don't expect you to act as if you are their age; they hired you because they want you to be who you are, with all of the wisdom that you've earned during your time in this industry. Just be you.

It's Back-to-School Season: Empower Yourself with a Career in Real Estate

Pencils… check. Notebooks… check. Textbooks… check.

Sounds like a pretty standard back-to-school shopping list, right? But, what if that list was your very own back-to-class list? By this time of year, you’ve probably already checked off everything that was on your children’s back-to-school shopping list and they may have already started their first day of classes.

So, now that you’ve put all that time, money and energy into making sure that your kids have the perfect start to their new school year, maybe it is time to consider giving yourself a brand new start, too.

It’s no secret that the real estate market is booming in many parts of the country. At times, it is hard to say if it is better to be a buyer or seller right now; but, one thing is for sure: now is a great time to be a real estate agent!

To start a new career in real estate, it doesn’t matter if you’ve spent the last umpteen years as a stay-at-home parent or if you’ve been rigorously working that 9-5 for what seems like an eternity. The process is the same for all new agents:

Enroll in and pass two 30-hour courses, then pay to take the state real estate licensing exam. Once you pass that, you pay the state for your license and you are on your way to all of the perks that come with a career in real estate:

  1. You can be your own boss! That’s right, you decide when and how much you want to work. You are free to take your vacations whenever you would like and if you want to “leave early” on any given day of the week, you are free to do that, too!
  2. You get paid in proportion to your efforts! For every person who has put in countless hours working on a project only to be overlooked when it comes time to turn it in, you can take comfort in knowing that the real estate industry rewards you directly for the work you put in. It really is that simple.
  3. You have the potential to earn an unlimited amount! Because a career in real estate is a commission-based sales position, real estate agents have the potential to continually increase their income, without receiving promotions or other bonuses. Basically, you decide how much you want to make!

Those three perks hold true for any real estate agent and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty real estate agents enjoy various other perks, too. In addition to optimal support, guidance and protection for all of our agents, we also offer:

  1. Free office space at our 18 western Pennsylvania office locations and use of all office equipment!
  2. Free e-leads and referrals, along with access to our content management system and intranet!
  3. Free marketing materials!
  4. Free listings on many websites, plus free listing photos and virtual tours – all done by a professional photographer!
  5. Free continuing real estate and management education.

This year, back-to-school time can take on a whole new meaning for you and your career. If you’re self-motivated, energetic and love helping other people, a career in the real estate industry may be just for you!

Ready to start an exciting career as a real estate agent? Learn more about how you can get started or find out more about being a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty real estate agent here.

Setting House Rules: Tips for Landlords Renting to College Students

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, classes around the country are, without a doubt, back in session. While that means many things to many people, for landlords who lease their properties to college students, it can mean that they’re sleeping a little less peacefully at night. But, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Yes, renting property to college students can be stressful, but it also can be very, very lucrative. And, you don’t have to have the most conscientious tenants to protect yourself and your property. What you do need to have is a little landlord know-how.

Here are three top tips to help landlords have a successful school year with their college tenants:

1. Exercise an extensive screening process. When it comes to leasing a property to a college co-ed, it is all about the screening. Screen the students; screen the parents; and, screen the school. What do we mean? Well, you may want to run a criminal background check on your potential tenant. And, if Mommy and Daddy are footing the bill for the rental property, you may want to run a check on their credit, too. Finally, screen the school by contacting them to make sure that your potential tenant hasn’t been kicked off campus for any heinous acts. The upfront screening process may seem like a bit of a hassle for a landlord, but you can’t put a price on peace of mind!

2. Tailor the lease for each and every tenant. Let’s face it; renting property to college students may not be exactly the same as renting property to a retiree. It may be a good idea to work with an attorney to create an individualized lease agreement for your college tenants. You may want to consider asking parents or guardians to co-sign the agreement. You may also want to include special clauses that address noise levels, occupancy rules that might prevent tightly-packed parties and damages that could result in costly repairs.

In multiple bedroom homes or apartments, some landlords opt for lease agreements that hold each tenant responsible for the total rent amount. That way, if friendships or relationships go awry during the semester and someone decides to move out, the landlord doesn’t see a loss in rent money.

The landlord/college tenant lease agreement may even be a good place for first-time-away-from-home students to learn a little responsibility. By creating a lease that specifies student tenants are required to pay utility bills, they may learn the price of leaving the air conditioner running all day with the windows wide open. Mom and Dad may even thank you for the life lesson!

3. Enlist the help of a trusted student. This is college we’re talking about after all. There are an abundance of over-achievers out there. As a landlord, you’re bound to find a responsible student who is looking to build their future resume from the start. If you can afford it, offer a stellar student free or discounted rent to serve as a Resident Assistant that monitors your other tenants. College students may respond to a peer better than you anyhow. So, having a “friend” tell them that they’re not allowed to burn candles, light incense, set off fireworks or have bonfires may be more effective than their landlord catching them in a prohibited act. 

When it comes to trusting personal property to any tenant, there is always cause for a landlord to be concerned. This may be particularly true for the landlord-college tenant relationship. Whether you are a new landlord, who is renting to college students for the first time, or a landlord who has been burned by irresponsible student tenants in the past, the start of a new semester is the perfect time to start new lease agreements for successful renting relationships.

August is Family Fun Month! 10 Ways Western PA is Perfect for Family Fun

Across the nation, August is known as Family Fun Month. In Western Pennsylvania, we are proud to offer a seemingly endless list of fun activities for families. From theme parks, museums and sporting events to zoos, inclined planes and other outdoor activities, the Pittsburgh area is bustling with fun for the whole family.

Here are 10 of our favorite things to do for family fun in Western Pennsylvania:

1. Walk on the Wild Side: Animal attractions at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, Living Treasures Animal Parks and the National Aviary are sure to satisfy the whole family. Whether your outdoor excursion takes you to downtown Pittsburgh or one of the surrounding regions, these wild animal encounters will have the family roaring with excitement!

2. Explore the Wonders of the Laurel Highlands: Southwestern PA’s Laurel Highlands are truly a treasure, rich with history, beauty and adventure… or, all of the makings for family fun! Where else can you see Pennsylvania’s largest cave, observe an architectural masterpiece built on top of a waterfall and get a historical lesson on the French and Indian War? Plan a day of family fun by visiting the Laurel Caverns, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Fort Ligonier.

3. Experience Thrilling Rides and Chilling Slides: Western Pennsylvania is home to several amusement parks that offer something for everyone in the family. Idlewild Park is known as one of the world’s best parks for kids. Kennywood Park and Sandcastle Water Park have been thrilling Pittsburgh families for years! You’ll need more than a day to explore all the excitement within these three Western PA theme parks!

4. Resort to Adventure and Relaxation: Skiing, golfing and biking are just three outdoor activities to take part in at one of Western Pennsylvania’s premier resorts. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, Seven Springs Mountain Resort and Hidden Valley Resort offer indoor family fun, too. Enjoy a day on the slopes or a day at the spa, complete with casual or fine dining for the whole family.

5. Find Far More than History at the Museum: When it comes to museums, Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania are rich with history, science and art. The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, Mattress Factory Art Museum, Andy Warhol Museum, Children’s Museum, Fort Pitt Museum and Carnegie Science Center are just a few of the many museums that families love to frequent in the area. Your family could be entertained for weeks exploring all of the region’s museums.

6. Indulge in the Performing Arts: If your family’s artistic tastes are a little finer, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Opera and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra are the perfect treat. For world-class entertainment, attend an orchestra, symphony or ballet performance. You can even take a class with The Ballet Company. Family fun doesn’t get any finer!

7. Take a Ride on the Inclines: Pittsburgh’s Monogahela and Duquesne Inclines offer the perfect combination between historical knowledge and current tastes. The oldest U.S. incline, the Monogahela Incline connects bustling Station Square with Mount Washington, where onlookers get a glimpse of the entire city of Pittsburgh. Similarly, the Duquesne Incline takes visitors on a ride through history that leads to the top of Mount Washington, where they can enjoy many restaurants and an unbeatable view of the Pittsburgh skyline.

8. Cruise Down Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers: The Gateway Clipper Fleet offers fun that allows families to dine, dance and soak in the sights. What better way for the family to enjoy Pittsburgh’s three rivers than by taking a boat ride through the city? The Gateway Clipper also offers a shuttle service to some other great Pittsburgh events.

9. Quack Your Way Through the City: If you’re not too keen on seeing Pittsburgh from only a boat, hitch a ride with our feathered friends on a Just Ducky Tour. These historic DUKW vehicles travel through the city on land and in the water. With an enthusiastic and often witty tour guide, Ducky tours make for great family fun! 

10. Show Off Your Black and Gold: Finally, last on our list, but usually first in our minds, what better Pittsburgh family outing than making a day of supporting our hometown professional sports teams? No matter which season is in session, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins, Pirates and Riverhounds are sure to impress fans young and old!

All of these fun family activities and we haven’t even mentioned the food! It’s no wonder why Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania continue to rank as top areas to live, work and play. During Family Fun Month, get your family together and experience just some of the things that make this area so great!

My Fair Landlord: What Rental Property Owners Should Know about the Fair Housing Act

The school year is nearly complete and summer is almost upon us, which means that many landlords or investment property owners may be preparing their rental units for new tenants. Whether you are a first-time landlord, who is just getting ready to take on that new title, or you own several rental properties, there are a few things that you need to know about being fair while you search for that perfect new tenant.

In fact, the federal Fair Housing Act actually dictates several parts of a landlord’s tenant-search process and the landlord-tenant relationship. By federal law, landlords are not allowed to discriminate against potential tenants based on several criteria that include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status or handicap.

Knowing may be half of the battle; but, what aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship do those discriminatory factors apply to? According to the Fair Housing Act, they apply to several:

Advertising: When advertising a vacancy in one of their rental units, either online, in print or in any other capacity, landlords are not permitted to make any sort of statement that might suggest a limitation or preference based on any of the discriminatory factors listed in the Fair Housing Act.

Occupancy: According to the Fair Housing Act, this guideline actually covers several factors of the landlord-tenant relationship. Based on the listed discriminatory factors, a landlord may not claim that a rental unit is unavailable when it is readily available. Landlords also are unable to alter their selection standards or refuse to rent their properties to members of certain groups; again, see the discriminatory factors listed above.

In accordance with federal guidelines, once their properties are occupied, landlords must provide the same housing services to their tenants. They also may not deny that their tenants make reasonable modifications to their units at their own expense, particularly when the tenant agrees to restore the unit to its original condition upon moving out.

Rental Policies: The Fair Housing Act also dictates several parts of a landlord’s rental policies. Once a landlord sets occupancy terms for a rental unit, they may not alter those terms for some tenants and keep them for others. They also must keep consistent tenant policies regarding late rental payments.

Oppositely, a landlord cannot refuse to make reasonable rules, policies or service accommodations for a disabled person to use their rental properties.

Termination or Eviction: Though this may seem like a no-brainer, according to the federal Fair Housing Act, a landlord is unable to terminate or evict a tenant based on any of the discriminatory factors listed within the Act.

So, landlords, now that you are armed with either a newfound knowledge of the Fair Housing Act or have been briefly refreshed, you may actually find it surprising to know that the federal law does not apply to all landlords. There are instances where rental properties and their tenants are not covered by federal fair housing laws.

For landlords who own an apartment building with four or less rental units or who own three or less single-family dwellings and choose not to use advertising or a real estate broker to lease their properties, the federal Fair Housing Act does not apply.

There is also an exemption to the Fair Housing Act when it comes to housing that is designed for senior citizens. That exemption includes communities where all tenants are over the age of 62. It also includes “55 and older” housing communities where 80% of occupied rentals are inhabited by at least one person who is 55 or older

Landlords should also know that even where the Fair Housing Act or other federal laws do not apply, state housing laws may; so, it is always best to check on state or local regulations if you are unsure of what laws apply to you.

Investment properties can be a great source of primary or supplemental income, but along with all of those certain perks come various responsibilities. Of course, landlord tasks can include everything from management and maintenance to mediating some personnel issues. Because of the federal Fair Housing Act and other regulations, landlord responsibilities also include some legal issues.

But, as the saying goes, with the federal Fair Housing Act, all’s fair in love and rental properties!

For more information about the federal Fair Housing Act and other landlord regulations:

Ready to Spring Forward? Consider a Refreshing New Career in Real Estate!

After the long, bitter winter, it goes without saying that we all will be welcoming spring with open arms in just a few weeks. With the season of renewal nearly upon us, it is likely that many people have begun to consider making a few changes in their lives; you know, possibly looking at new homes, new projects or even new careers.

As you remember to turn your clocks an hour ahead this weekend and spring forward, consider the possibilities that starting a refreshing career in real estate might have for you!

Becoming a real estate agent has certain undeniable perks that begin from the time you become licensed:

1. You become your own boss. As a real estate agent, the only person telling you what to do and where to be, is you! So, if you’re tired of having someone else to answer to, real estate could be the perfect industry for you.

2. You create your own flexible schedule. Wish you were working from home today? As a real estate agent, you could be. Along with being their own bosses, real estate agents also set their own daily work hours, vacation time and work locations!

3.  You have an unlimited earning potential. Haven’t you always wished that you could get paid based on just how much work you put in? With real estate, the more you market yourself and your listings, the more income you have the potential to make.

4. You will never have the same day. Whether you’re meeting new clients, hosting an open house or catching up on some paperwork, being a real estate agent means there is always something new to do, so no work day is ever the same.

At Prudential Preferred Realty, we’re not only partial to the real estate industry, but we’re also partial to our own real estate process! Soon, we’re becoming Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty and there are a few additional perks not only to becoming a real estate agent, but particularly to joining our team:

1. We have a performance-based commission structure. The commission you earn is based on your success. So, the more successful that you are, the more money you can make!

2. We have non-competing managers. While our managers have a wealth of experience in the industry, they do not sell real estate; so, they won’t be competing with you. They are solely on your side to train you, support you and assist you with your transactions.

3. We offer free continuing education. Through our very own Pru University, you can enroll in free, on-going education classes to learn more about listing techniques, negotiations, home staging, marketing, technology and more.

4. We offer support through full-service marketing and technology departments. Our expert marketing and technology professionals are on hand daily to give you personalized marketing and technology support.

5. We offer top online exposure. We are the only local real estate company with featured programs on top real estate websites like Zillow, Trulia, and

6. We celebrate our agents and their successes. Each year, we recognize our agents’ successes at our annual Awards Ceremony; but, we also hold various other celebratory events throughout the year.

7. We have fun! In addition to celebrating success with our agents, we also just like to have fun together. Some of our favorite outings with our agents include our annual Shrimp Boil and Bowl-a-thon, Pittsburgh Pirates tailgates, Gateway Clipper cruises, Christmas parties and so many other great events!

If you’ve always had an interest in real estate or are just looking to try something new and exciting this spring, the real estate industry may be just the right move for you!

Learn more about a career in real estate or how you can join the Prudential Preferred Realty team here.

Can You Manage? Is it Time to Hire a Property Manager for Your Investment Properties?

For many investment property owners, regulating their properties and tenants is not their only profession. But, when you take on the title of “landlord,” there is, unquestionably, a lot of responsibility that goes along with it.

Of course, it is possible to manage an investment property on your own or with the help of another family member or friend. However, if you own more than one property or are finding that your primary profession does not allow you adequate time to be the kind of landlord that you had envisioned yourself as, you may be considering hiring a property manager to assist with your property and tenant concerns and needs.

If you’re struggling to decide whether or not you should hire a property manager for your investment property, here are some things you may want to consider:


It is not uncommon for property managers to charge a fee of up to 10% of your expected rent. So, do the math. Depending on how much you charge for rent, decide if the cost of retaining a property manager is worth it.

Also, on the financial side, it is typical for a property manager to function as an independent contractor; but, if your chosen property manager does not, you will also be looking at adding an employee, which will entail other financial and legal responsibilities.


Do you live across the street or across the country from your rental property? Your proximity to your investment property can play a huge role in how well you are able to manage it. If you are able to stop by your rental property on your way to or from work or during lunch, you may have enough accessibility to manage it yourself. If you live in Pennsylvania, but own property in Virginia, the chances may be good that you may need some extra help at times.


Time may seem like an obvious consideration when it comes to any task, but it may be hard to judge just how much time managing your investment property could take. When it comes to filling a vacant property, consider the time it takes to advertise, field questions, interview potential tenants, complete paperwork and credit checks, plus check references, not to mention being there to deliver the keys when your chosen tenants are ready to move in.

Once your investment property is rented out, factor in the time it will take to deal with occasional issues like minor repairs or noisy neighbors. While it certainly is a dismal thought, you should also consider the possibility for any major issues like fire, flood or a tenant who refuses to pay.

All of those circumstances take time to correct. If you own more than one property, multiply those issues by the number of properties you own.


Is “landlord” a new title for you? If so, do you feel comfortable with having all of the responsibilities that go along with that title? In addition to everything that goes in to finding tenants and maintaining a property, in the early stages, you will also need to draft a lease agreement that you are comfortable with and get to know landlord-tenant laws. For first-time landlords, a property manager can be extremely valuable, for those reasons alone.

If you are not a first-time landlord, but recently have acquired additional investment properties, do you consider yourself experienced enough to juggle the multiple responsibilities that go along with each rental? An experienced property manager, whose primary profession is maintaining your properties, may be the answer for you.


Finally, can you trust another person or a company with your “property baby?” If you are usually hands-on with most things you undertake, this is a very serious consideration. Property managers are there to deal directly with you and with your prospects and tenants. They often are able to handle the marketing, collection, maintenance, complaints and possible evictions. But, can you handle someone else doing “your” work?

Some experts argue that if you are your own property manager, then you will be more likely to control your tenants and keep better watch over your property. Similarly, some believe that a property owner is more inclined to maintain their property and keep long-term tenants. In reality, there are many fully-capable and trustworthy property managers who tend to properties as if they are their own.

Of course, selecting a great property manager can be just as time-consuming as selecting a great tenant! Good luck!

Time to Invest? Questions Every First-Time Property Investor Should Ask

Reasonable home prices and low interest rates make now a great time to invest in real estate. But, it is that easy to find and buy an investment property? If you’re a first-time investor, what do you need to know before you take that leap into your first investment property?

Here are five questions to ask yourself (along with a little advice) before you decide to invest in a rental property:

1. What type of investment is best for you?

Buying an investment property does not necessarily translate into becoming a landlord. Many first-time investors look to buy property to flip and resell for profit. Decide if your interests lie within a single-family home, duplex, apartment building or commercial property. Don’t be afraid to consider all options, but be sure to do your homework on the responsibilities that go along with each type of investment. Once you know what you’re looking for, it will be a lot easier to narrow down your search.

2. Are you financially able to handle the risks and expenses involved in owning an investment property?

If you invest in a rental property, you may be receiving monthly rent in return for your investment right away, but you will also be responsible for the costs of owning the property, such as taxes, insurance, maintenance, repairs, etc. etc. etc. Of course, that is assuming you have immediate tenants and their monthly rent covers the total cost of your mortgage. If either is not the case, you certainly will be looking at additional expenses. As with any home purchase, it is good to get preapproval before you begin searching for the ideal investment property.

To limit the risks involved in buying an investment property, whether you intend to rent or flip and sell it, you can purchase the property, but start off as the owner and occupant. By living in your investment for at least a year, you typically can make a smaller down payment on the property. It may require frequent moves, but this strategy will also allow you to purchase a new investment each year or so, as you are ready.

3. What is your reason for investing?

Purchasing investment properties can be a lucrative business in itself, so is that your plan? Are you eventual goals to quit your job and make a living solely from investing or are you just trying to ramp up your retirement funds by adding additional income from investments. Both are great goals to keep in mind, but make sure you know what your goal is before you dive in to purchasing that first property.  

4. Do you have a good support system?

If you are purchasing an investment property with the goal of renting it out, make sure you have your supporting cast of maintenance and repair specialists on call from the get-go. You don’t want to run into a situation where you have a tenant facing an issue that you can’t fix. Attorneys and accountants are wise to keep in your arsenal as well, in case you run into any legal issues with tenants or tax issues. If you don’t have the time to handle the day-to-day duties of being a landlord, consider adding a property management consultant or firm to that list of specialists, too.

5. Do you need help from an experienced professional?

As a first-time real estate investor, it may be helpful for you to partner with an experienced real estate agent, who can assist you in finding the right investment property. Location is important! Depending on the type of investment you want to make, an experienced real estate agent may know the areas and types of properties you should be looking for. If you establish great rapport with an experienced agent now, they may be able to help as you continue to build your investment property portfolio!

Undoubtedly, purchasing an investment property can be a great source of income, but it can also be a great headache if you don’t know what you’re getting in to. By asking some basic questions, first-time investors can decide if now is the right time to make their investment property dreams come true. 

Contact an experienced Prudential Preferred Realty investment property agent today. 

School is Back in Session: Time for a Lesson in College-Town Real Estate Investments!

Whether you enrolled for the semester or not, you probably took advantage of all the great back-to-school sales this season. So, you probably know that schools everywhere are back in session. If you’re considering investing in some real estate and know you’re ready to take on the title of “landlord,” now is the perfect time to consider snagging some prime property in a college town .Yes, you read that right… a college town.

Some potential real estate investors may shy away from college towns, solely based on the “Animal House” reputations of some student renters. But, there are many pros to this one negative connotation:

Low Vacancy Rates, High Earning Potential

Even a failing economy can’t keep a college town down. When times are bad, many people flock to colleges to earn a degree. Students who’ve just graduated, but have a hard time finding a job, often decide to stay enrolled and earn an advanced degree to make themselves more marketable to potential employers. So, if you choose to invest in some college-town property, you could be looking at a long-term lease agreement. Many student renters are also willing to rent just a room. So, that five-bedroom place that just didn’t seem practical may be perfect for a cohort of college students.

Professionals are Looking for Temporary Housing Too!

Students aside, college towns are full of many educated people, like professors, employers and helicopter parents… oh wait, that’s a completely different blog! On a serious note, all of you potential real estate investors don’t have to bank on young tenants, who are just learning how to take care of themselves, let alone YOUR property. College towns are also full of educators and employers that may need temporary housing while they work.

Rising Rental Rates

Another great reason to invest in a college town rental property is the rent alone. Popular rental site Trulia suggests that, on average, rent has increased 5% in the last year and it is expected to rise again 5% this year. Plus, while the rental market is up, the cost of homes in college towns remains down.

So, even with typical rental maintenance fees, it is very easy for rental property investors to turn an immediate profit on their college-town rentals. If you previously thought you should pass on buying a college town rental property, don’t fail to notice the obvious perks.

Ready to start your search for an investment property? Contact one of our Investment Certified Specialists today!

10 Great Reasons “Yinz” Should Live in the Steel City

Maybe you’re ready to buy your first home… maybe you’re looking for vacation property… hey, maybe you’re even interested in an investment property. Regardless of your reason for searching out real estate right now, there are an abundance of reasons to buy property in Pittsburgh.

After all, there are reasons that both Forbes and The Economist have named Pittsburgh as America’s “most livable city.” Here are a few of our favorites:

1. The Size – Pittsburgh is big and busy enough for anyone to pop in at their favorite downtown coffee shop before work; enjoy a fabulous evening of fine dining on Mt. Washington; and, throw back a drink at their favorite neighborhood dive bar… all in one day. Whether you grew up here or you’re moving to Pittsburgh, that’s something we can all enjoy.

2. The People – Another glorious thing about Pittsburgh real estate is the neighbors… and the fact that even a complete stranger will treat you with the same kindness as a neighbor. We’re not talking about Boston’s “everybody knows your name…” because, in Pittsburgh, it doesn’t matter if someone knows your name – they’re going to treat you like they’ve known you for years.

3. The Neighborhoods – They’re intricately separated by three rivers and just as intricately connected by a seemingly endless number of bridges and tunnels. But, each and every Pittsburgh neighborhood holds an incredible amount of charm, history and heritage. From the North Shore to the South Side to Lawrenceville and Station Square, anyone looking for homes for sale in Pittsburgh is bound to fall in love with at least one Pittsburgh neighborhood.

Andy Warhol Museum4. The Arts and Sciences – In addition to a bustling cultural district that attracts everything from Broadway shows to top comedians and musicians, Pittsburgh is packed with museums, too. Whether your interests lie with Andy Warhol or natural history, Pittsburgh has something for everyone. Even if you’re just looking into Pittsburgh real estate, the Carnegie Science Center and the Children’s Museum should be two places on your “to visit” list while you’re in town.

 5. The Sports – There is much proof that Steeler Nation reaches across the country, but there is only one city that bleeds black and gold. Pittsburgh residents are some of the nation’s proudest sports fans and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins and Pirates give them plenty of things to cheer about each year. Whether you’re at a game or a Pittsburgh neighborhood party, there’s just something special about being a part of it.

6. The Parks – The city may be divided by three rivers of blue, but there is plenty of green space in downtown Pittsburgh, too. Not only can you find Pittsburgh residents relaxing by the fountain in Point State Park, annual events like Pittsburgh’s Arts Festival and the Regatta bring food, music and fun there, too.

Pittsburgh food7. The Food – Speaking of food, what other city do you know that puts coleslaw on sandwiches and French fries on… well, everything? Ethnic foods like pierogies and classic favorites like Primanti’s are two great reasons to begin looking for homes for sale in Pittsburgh today.

8. The Education – There is more than one reason that Movoto recently named Pittsburgh as America’s “Smartest City,” but the many downtown colleges and universities certainly helped push the city to the top of the list. The University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University and Carnegie Mellon University are just three excellent higher education options in Pittsburgh.

9. The Seasons – 90? weather in the summer and 19 ? weather in the winter. People who are living in or moving to Pittsburgh can count on enjoying the things that every season can bring. Just when you think you’ve had enough of winter’s snow, spring’s beauty blossoms around you. As summer’s heat starts to seem never-ending, fall’s crisp, refreshing air moves in. You can’t find that just anywhere… and, Pittsburgh’s got it.

10. The Homes – Not only does the Pittsburgh real estate market offer everything from sleek downtown condominiums to townhomes along the river, people searching for a home in Pittsburgh will also find colonials, ranches and other historical beauties on the market. Something that many Pittsburgh real estate options have in common? An affordable price tag. Search available homes for sale in Pittsburgh now.

The City of Butler: Small-town America, Present-day Paradise

Scenic countryside, traditional bed and breakfasts, beautiful, historic buildings, antique shops and even farmers markets… sounds like Americana at its finest, right?  Actually, it is… and it’s located just 35 miles north of downtown Pittsburgh in the city of Butler.

Recognized in 2012 as Smithsonian Magazine’s 7th best small town, it is no wonder why so many families searching for a home in Pittsburgh land in Butler.  Who can resist a historically-charming county courthouse and various classic museums set amongst an industrial and manufacturing center?  Certainly not any of the several authors who’ve selected Butler as the backdrop of their novels.

Butler’s rural appeal is personified in plays at Butler Little Theatre, the Butler Fall festival and at all of the city’s bed and breakfasts, including Four Points Alpacas, where elegant animals graze in rolling farmlands.

The rural paradise is easily accessible, too, via five major highways that run through Butler, several nearby freight railroads and the Butler County Airport, which offers general aviation convenience.

But, there is no need to fly out of Butler.  The airport’s Runway Sports Bar and Grille is just one of the city’s many tasty options.  Mama Rosa’s Restaurant and Sauce Kitchen may rival your own mama’s cooking and you won’t find better authentic Mexican food than you will at Rey Azteca.  Although you’re sure to be full, it’s hard to resist King Cones Castle for frosty desserts.

Butler also offers plenty of ways to work off all that delicious cuisine, too – like any one of the several area golf courses.  The Conley Resort even includes a family-fun indoor water park, banquet hall and hotel accommodations – which may be great if you check out the Deer Creek or Rustic Acres Wineries, which are conveniently located in Butler.  If you’re interested in biking, hunting or picnicking, Almeda Park may be just the place for you.

Great public and private schools are just the icing on the cake for Butler residents.  If you’re searching for a home in Pittsburgh, see what Butler has to offer you.  Search available homes in Butler now.

5 Reasons Why You Should Consider Investing in Real Estate

You’ve received the advice before:  “You really ought to invest in some real estate.” “There’s never been a better time to invest.” Yes, it all sounds good and you have thought about it. But, you know that the market dropped in 2008, so it’s only natural that you might have a reservation or two about the idea of investing.

The truth is, there are a lot of good reasons to make an investment in real estate. Here are five things to consider:

1. Taxes – Yes, taxes are a sure thing whether you decide to invest in real estate or not. But, did you know that those who choose to buy investment properties actually are able to keep more of their paychecks? Yep, the deductions start with anything incurred during the purchase of the property and continue with maintenance, depreciation, loan interest, insurance premiums… the list goes on. So, maybe you don’t have to share so much of that paycheck with Uncle Sam after all.

2. Equity – It’s very likely that you will build equity as you’re paying down a mortgage. With each payment you make, you’re getting closer to paying off that principal. Once the property is paid down or off, your earning potential only rises.

3. Cash Flow – Speaking of earning, did you know that investing in real estate can take you down the path to financial freedom faster than just about anything short of hitting the Powerball jackpot? It’s true – when you’ve got positive cash flow, well, you’ve got positive cash flow. Even in the event that you’re spending more than you’re bringing in, you are able to write that off as a loss (see reason #1 to invest in real estate).

4. Leverage – Ah yes, spending a little of your own money and (potentially) a lot of someone else’s to make more money for yourself.  Sounds like a no brainer, right? You have X amount of dollars to spend – you can leverage some or all of that to buy one, two or however many properties you can. If you’re borrowing at 4%, but your return is 4 times that, you’ve got positive cash flow. If you have tenants who are taking care of your mortgage payments, your return goes up. Let’s not forget the end of that loan term, either. You own one, two or however many properties you’ve bought and you continue to receive rent payments. So, yes, leverage = buying power = earning power.

5. The 3 P’s – Pride. Peace of Mind. Protection. – When you invest in real estate, you can enjoy the pride that comes along with home ownership. If you’re investing in a home for the future – maybe for your children or parents, you have the peace of mind in knowing they’ll always have a place of their own to call “home.” Finally, protection or security – the financial kind. Let’s be honest, it’s something we’re all looking for.

If those five reasons have got you thinking about investing in real estate, get started by reading more about The Art of Real Estate Investing or contact one of our Real Estate Investment Specialists.


Study says Pittsburgh fully recovered from recession


With our economy tied to education, medicine and energy, Pittsburgh earned another distinction on Friday as one of three major U.S. metropolitan areas experiencing recovery since the 2007-09 recession ended.

The Pittsburgh skyline partly tells the city’s economic story, said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. PNC Financial Services just finished building one skyscraper and started construction on another.

“In my mind, it’s already recovered. We employ more people in Pittsburgh than we ever have,” Ravenstahl said.

That makes Pittsburgh a member of a small club, said the Brookings Institution. It analyzed employment levels and gross domestic product per capita and deemed Pittsburgh, Knoxville, Tenn., and Dallas in recovery three and a half years after the economic recession ended.

The Washington-based research group said full recovery includes an economy that has “returned to its long-term pre-recession rates of economic growth.”

The United States has the most major metropolitan economies of all countries — 76 — Brookings said in its annual report on the 300 largest metropolitan economies worldwide.

“It was still better than last year when the U.S. had no metro recoveries,” Brookings associate fellow Emilia Istrate said.

Istrate said the three cities had two features in common: strong local services such as health care, and business and financial services that cater to specific industries.“The recession in Pittsburgh was less severe than in the rest of the country, and it’s clear that the area has had stronger employment growth than the rest of the country,” said Mark Price, labor economist for the Keystone Research Center, Harrisburg.

Price added that the Pittsburgh region also saw strong growth in the labor force in the past year, which is an indication that the area’s strong economy “has drawn people there, and faster than in other places.”

Douglas Heuck, director the Regional Indicators for Pittsburgh Today, a research affiliate of the University of Pittsburgh, said the Pittsburgh region has enjoyed slowly rising housing prices, a rarity given the nation’s housing crisis. He added the region’s economy also has been well-supported by its health care, higher education and financial services segments.

“And Marcellus shale drilling has been a shot in the arm, coming during the teeth of the recession,’ said Heuck.

Though more people are employed in Pittsburgh than ever before, and the city’s population is growing, Ravenstahl cautioned: “There is still much more work to be done.”

Pittsburgh has applied for partial release from state oversight of its budget, citing a turnaround in its financial condition. Its yearly operating budget is $470 million.

“While we are extremely excited that the world keeps recognizing our economic successes, we must not view this as another pat on the back but as a challenge to keep improving,” Ravenstahl said.

In Knoxville, retailers moving into old downtown buildings, an abundance of freshly planted greenspaces, and a stream of new jobs are signs to Mayor Madeline Rogero that prosperity is blooming in her city.

“We feel very good about how we’re coming out of this recession,” Rogero said. “We see new interest. We see new development that’s occurring. We’re optimistic that this recovery is going to continue.”

The recession came late to many city budgets. Their primary revenue source — property taxes — took time to fall because of lags in real estate valuations. By the time they dropped, cities were contending with falling sales and income taxes resulting from job losses.

Cities of all sizes still worry about budgets and federal spending cuts.

“Cities are emerging slowly from the Great Recession,” said Robert Zahradnik at Pew’s American Cities Project, which tracks fiscal conditions and budgets. “In many cities revenues are gradually recovering but there are still some risks out there.”

All three cities created long-term stability with local services and the public sector, and growth with business and financial services, said Istrate.

“People always want to know what metros are recovering, what they are doing, so they can replicate it. There is no single industry that can help but there is an industrial structure that can help you grow year to year,” she said. “More and more metropolitan areas are looking at the export sector, at foreign investors, at infrastructure.”

Business services in Dallas, she said, easily cater to the commodities sector.

Analysts at the firm IHS track employment in U.S. metropolitan areas and found almost all cities in Texas have returned to their pre-recesssion employment peaks, as Dallas did in the last quarter of 2012.

The state was not hit hard by the housing bubble, said IHS economist Steven Frable. Its industry diversity — energy, business services, and trade and transportation — attracts workers.

In 2013 and 2014, IHS expects more than 75 metropolitan areas to regain peak employment, mostly large cities such as New York and Seattle.

Reuters and Trib Total Media staff writer Thomas Olson contributed to this report.

Read More:


Legislation Proposed to Transform Troubled Pittsburgh Neighborhoods

In late October a bill was put forward by Councilman Ricky Burgess that has the potential for drastic improvement in some of Pittsburgh’s less active neighborhoods. The bill proposes the formation of a land bank that would systematically acquire and resell the thousands of vacant, tax-delinquent, and blighted (in an extreme state of neglect) properties within Pittsburgh.

Homes in Need of Repair: A Drain on the Neighborhood
Numerous complaints about the vacant properties gave rise to the bill proposal. Residents of East End neighborhoods, represented by Mr. Burgess, found the buildings unsightly, giving whole neighborhoods a run-down look and even creating vermin problems.
A report released by the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban reform has confirmed the need for action. Surveyors analyzed vacant and blighted properties in Homewood, one of the neighborhoods under Mr. Burgess’ jurisdiction. They found that 60% of the taxable properties of the neighborhood were delinquent, and half of those delinquent for five or more years. About 44% of Homewood’s plots were empty lots, and about 30% of its houses were vacant and neglected. This means that within this neighborhood alone, roughly 3,600 homes and lots are unused and causing problems for the surrounding areas.
In all, the land bank project would be able to reclaim about 16,000 properties across Pittsburgh and its boroughs. The ultimate goal would be to transform them into livable homes for sale and sell lots as side yards for neighboring properties or turn them over to community projects, such as urban gardens and playgrounds.

Land Bank Action
While the city of Pittsburgh already works to acquire and resell delinquent properties, the land bank would greatly expand on and accelerate that process. The land bank would establish a full staff committed to finding, appropriating, and bringing these areas to code for resale. Funding for the program, including staff wages and demolition and maintenance costs for acquired properties, would come from property sales, enabling the program to pay for itself and run self-sufficiently. To go into action, the legislation will have to be first approved by the Pittsburgh City Council.

Benefits of a Land Bank
Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods would benefit from the land bank in a number of ways. The beautification and maintenance of these properties would clean up the appearance of the neighborhoods, possibly allowing property values to appreciate and spur on the marketability of homes in these areas. Furthermore, a greater availability of housing would offer new opportunities for home buyers and give another jolt to the economy and real estate investment, particularly aiding in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.

Types of Real Estate Careers in Pittsburgh

Although one of the most popular careers in real estate is to be a realtor, there are many other careers within the field. Every real estate transaction is made through the effort of a number of people contributing a different piece to the process.

Real Estate Agent
Real estate agents work directly with buyers and sellers to facilitate real estate transactions. They help clients through all stages of a transaction from property searches or listings until closing. In addition to clients, real estate agents communicate with loan officers, escrow officers, appraisers, and home inspectors at different stages of the process to gather information with regard to the transaction. Real estate agents must have a thorough knowledge of their geographic location and the properties within that area as well as real estate law for the state they practice in.

Loan Officer
Loan officers are the liaisons between lending institutions and loan applicants. Their most essential function is to find loan solutions that serve the best interests of both their clients and the organizations they represent. Loan officers often serve as financial counselors and are responsible for assessing the financial status and credit report of applicants. They should have a strong working knowledge of different loan types to suit any financial situation that a client might present them with.

Escrow Officer
An escrow officer acts as a third party in real estate transactions. The main responsibility of these individuals is to collect all the information necessary to a transaction from lenders and convey that to property buyers and sellers during closing. The escrow officer will also facilitate the closing and deliver the keys to the new resident.

Real estate appraisers determine the value of the property based on condition and enhancements to the property, number of rooms, the condition of the neighborhood, the value of other similar houses, and many other factors. Lenders are required by law to receive a home appraisal before approving or issuing a loan. The appraisal figure is also used to help buyers and sellers determine a fair market price for the property.

Home Inspector
Distinct from an appraiser, home inspectors assess homes for buyers before the purchase is finalized. They inspect the actual condition of the home, including insulation, pipes, heating system, etc. to ensure that buyers are not purchasing a fixer-upper without knowing it. The results of the home inspection report can be used to ask for certain repairs before the transaction is closed. If the results are poor enough, though, a buyer may walk away from a purchase entirely.

Real Estate Career Salaries
While real estate agents and loan officers work on commission, that amount is also split with their brokers. According to statistics generated from SimplyHired, the average Pittsburgh real estate career salary is $39,000 per year, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for real estate careers throughout the country in 2010 was about $40,000. However, an individual’s precise salary will vary depending on location, broker, the overall state of the housing market, and so on.

Prudential Preferred Realty Joins OwnAmerica

Pittsburgh’s Prudential Preferred Realty announced today that it has joined OwnAmerica, a national web-based, resource and training organization for real estate investors and investment specialists. The affiliation allows Prudential Preferred Realty to provide educational programs and analysis tools to real estate investors during an upswing in the residential real estate market. 

New Tools for Real Estate Investors
Using the Investor Center on Prudential Preferred Realty's website, real estate investors can learn how to best capitalize on quality real estate assets – many of which still can be found at low prices. The Investor Center guides new real estate investors down the right path and streamlines the process for more seasoned investors.  The online Investor Center features a training course and analysis tools.

"It’s a good time to invest in the Southwestern Pennsylvania real estate market, but investing in real estate is quite different than traditional home buying and selling," said Jim Saxon, chief operating officer, Prudential Preferred Realty.  "It's a more complex process requiring additional levels of expertise. The Investor Center provides the resources to help today's investors profit by building a real estate portfolio for the long haul."

Rand, who also serves as CEO of OwnAmerica and host of WABC Radio's “Rand on Real Estate,” said:
"We've seen too many people giving bad advice about 'getting rich quick' in real estate. In truth, real estate is a long-term, wealth-building asset. It works when you do it right. We want to show our clients how to do it right."

Prudential Preferred Realty in Southwestern Pennsylvania is part of the national Prudential network, yet is locally owned and operated.  Prudential Preferred Realty’s professional agents have been helping Western Pennsylvanians with their real estate challenges for generations. Visit or call 800-860-SOLD to learn more about how Prudential Preferred Realty’s agents can help with your real estate challenges.

Home Contracts, Average Price Increase in September

"We saw continued improvement in demand for homes last month, as we enjoyed another month of double-digit increases in the number of homes that were placed under sales agreement, yet the supply of homes listed for sale continues to remain relatively steady." said Ron Croushore, President & CEO of Prudential Preferred Realty.

These numbers represent the 13-county area serviced by the West Penn Multi-List, Inc. (Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene, Clarion, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset and Indiana Counties) unless county is specified.

September Market Overview September 2012 versus September 2011

  • 13.24% increase in Homes Under Agreement (3,028 homes versus 2,674)
  • 8.18% increase in Average Sale Price ($167,278 versus $154,623)
  • 1.98% decrease in Homes Listed For Sale (2,867 versus 2,925)

Year to Date Market Overview January - September 2012 versus January - September 2011

  • 11.37% increase in Homes Under Agreement (29,226 homes versus 26,243)
  • 5.54% increase in Average Sale Price ($167,364 versus $158,580)
  • 0.95% increase in Homes Listed For Sale (29,765 versus 29,485)


Prudential Preferred Realty Hires 16 Sales Associates

Prudential Preferred Realty is hiring sales associates for our growing team in all 19 office locations in Southwestern Pennsylvania. We are proud to announce our newest sales associates. 

Kevin Fiore and Brett Moder joined the Bethel Park office.
Yolanda Zaid joined the Butler office.
Mary Navarro and Rob Haus joined the City office.
Starr Mikan joined the East office.
Bill Bangor joined the Greensburg office.
Bob Nolan joined the Hampton office.
Casie Lutz joined our North Hills office.
David McKelvey, Laurisa Mathews and Kathy DePaul-Green joined our Peters office.
Erin Forster joined our Sewickley office.
Cheri Cwynar, Thomas Stoviak, Amanda Wydra joined the West office.

6 Amazingly Useful Apps for REALTORS

1. - FREE
This app is great to use when you're with a client because it lets you have got everything you need right at your fingertips. Once your appointment is over you can add notes on the home and the client who viewed it. One more thing that makes this a must have app is that you can email your chosen listings to your clients and invite them to download the app so they can tell you if they see something they like! is one of an agents most valuable tools and it's free to download.

2. Mortgage Calc Pro! $.99
Mortgage Calculator Pro is a quick and easy to use calculator for brokers, realtors, and home buyers. Within seconds, you will be able to calculate the monthly payment for a mortgage, car payment, credit card, or other types of fixed rate loans. The calculator lets you add different adjustments such as insurance, property tax, and monthly fees such as HOA to see of they would affect the monthly payment.

3. Dropbox - FREE
Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. Any file you save to your Dropbox is accessible from all your computers, iPhone, iPad and even the Dropbox website!

4. Keynote - $9.99

Keynote is the most powerful presentation app ever designed for a mobile device. Built from the ground up for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, it makes creating a world-class presentation — complete with animated charts and transitions — as simple as touching and tapping. Use this to edit, create, and share your listing presentation.
5. Evernote - FREE
Evernote is an app you can download on your iPad, phone and computer that is designed for notetaking and archiving. This means that you have easy access to your notes on your computer, phone, Evernote website and tablet.  You can use evernote take notes, photos and record messages for buyers when you are showing property so they can remember more clearly what they love about that house.
6. Doc-U-Sign Ink - FREE
Its purpose is to deal with the sending, tracking and signing of all documents any time of the day, no matter where you are in the world. This app is wonderful when you need to sign documents and you're away from the office. Just open the PDF file in your email, select Open In, choose DocuSign Ink and touch the spots on the contract or form that need a signature. DocuSign will insert your already completed signature where needed, you can save your document, and you're on your way. This is a great app for clients to download.

Meet Our 10 Newest Sales Associates

Prudential Preferred Realty is hiring sales associates for our growing team in all 19 office locations in Southwestern Pennsylvania. We are proud to announce our newest sales associates. 
Kevin Fiore and Brett Moder joined our Bethel Park office.
Jan Antonelli joined our Fox Chapel office.
Amanda Knepper-Gelpi joined our Laurel Highlands office.
Casie Lutz joined our North Hills office.
Laurisa Mathews and David McKelvey joined our Peters office.
Erin Forster joined our Sewickley office.
Cheri Cwynar and Michael Stewart joined our West office.

Prudential Preferred Sponsors Scholarship Program for Aspiring Real Estate Agents

Prudential Preferred Realty offers scholarships to qualified individuals so they have the opportunity to attend real estate school. We began the program in an effort to promote job growth and spur interest in becoming a real estate agent.

Providing scholarships saves participants hundreds of dollars in tuition and related expenses. Each scholarship covers the cost of classes. In exchange, participants agree to work for Prudential Preferred Realty for a period of time. 
Prudential Preferred Realty also offers anyone taking the Real Estate Licensing Exam the opportunity to attend a free cram course, which has one of the highest pass rates for the Pittsburgh area. The course will review federal and Pennsylvania state law regarding real estate as well as aspects of real estate theory expected to be on the exam. (See upcoming cram course schedule)
Real estate school has two courses of 30 hours each: Real Estate Fundamentals (terminology, theory, and law) and Real Estate Practice (following a transaction from start to finish). While candidates will proceed through the course at different rates, the average amount of time to completion is roughly 6-8 weeks. The exam will test an applicant’s knowledge of the course material over 120-140 multiple-choice questions. Applicants must score at least 75% to receive a passing mark. (See upcoming real estate class schedule)
The main intention of the scholarship is to encourage individuals not previously engaged in real estate to enter into the field. Those wanting to make a career change are welcome to apply, even if they do not have prior real estate experience.  
To find out more about qualifying for the scholarship, the free cram course, the licensing process, or working for Prudential Preferred, interested individuals should contact Judy Gelman of the Prudential Preferred Career Development Department.
Prudential Preferred Realty has 19 locally owned and operated offices throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. Realtors of this firm have been helping clients with real estate sales, purchases, financing, new construction, and relocation since 1958. Prudential Preferred Realty has also been ranked among the top 20 Prudential companies, and current president and CEO, Ron Croushore, was named Broker of the Year for 2011 by the Prudential Real Estate Network.

Join us for Girls Night Out For A Cause

Please join us for Girls Night Out For A Cause
Thursday, October 18, 2012 • 5:30-8:30pm
Hosted by Prudential Preferred Realty
Echo Restaurant in Cranberry Twp, PA
RSVP now >

$20 donation at the door to benefit homeless children in Butler County. Checks or cash only.

Shop for jewelry, purses and clothing!

Network, shop, eat, drink and be merry and add some comfort to a child who doesn't have a home...

Questions? Call Judy Gelman at 412.400.4378

2012 Pittsburgh Fall Festival of Homes Kicks Off This Weekend

The Pittsburgh Fall Festival of Homes September 22-23 & 29-30 is the year's BIGGEST new construction event in which new home communities all over the Pittsburgh area are open for the public to view.  The event showcases new residential and home communities, homes and home renovations.

The regions leading home builders and professional remodelers will open their doors for you to tour and see the most outstanding designs, styles and new technologies available for sale and future construction in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties. 

Visit participating homes and enter to win a $2,500 shopping spree at Hillmon or Don's Appliance!

We put together a sneak peak at this Prudential Preferred Realty communities that are participating in this year's fall festival of homes. Click here to view.

The Fall Festival of Homes is hosted by The Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh and its sponsoring companies.

The Origins of the Pittsburgh Potty - Michelle Schocker on KDKA

Our very own Michelle Schocker, real estate agent in the Prudential Preferred Realty Rt. 19 South office, was featured on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today show on Monday September 17 to talk about the origins of the Pittsburgh Potty.

The Pittsburgh Potty is defined as a toilet in the basement of a house with no surrounding walls by the Wikipedia definition. And according to Schocker it is found in about 75% of homes in the South Hills.

As for where they came from, it has to do with our proud steelmaking roots.

"When mill workers or coal miners came home from work, many times they went into the basement of the home to clean up before going upstairs. Sometimes there was even a Pittsburgh Shower, once again with no walls, just a shower head coming down from the ceiling."

How much is a potty like this worth?

Schocker says “I did speak to an appraiser who said he didn’t actually put a value on the Pittsburgh Potty, but on the day you need it, it’s worth $1,000!”.

See the video (Michelle appears at the 3:40 mark) | Read the KDKA article

Home Contracts & Average Sales Price Increase in August - Pittsburgh Real Estate Market Report

August Market Overview (August 2012 versus August 2011)

  • 11.72% increase in Homes Under Agreement (3,640 homes versus 3,258)
  • 3.92% increase in Average Sale Price ($173,311 versus $166,777)
  • 0.17% decrease in Homes Listed For Sale (3,426 versus 3,432)

"With more people moving into our region than leaving and the positive attention Pittsburgh has been getting on the national stage, we anticipate the momentum that we’ve seen in residential real estate to continue. The region continues to need more homes listed for sale, so that homebuyers have ample options from which to choose." said Ron Croushore, President & CEO of Prudential Preferred Realty

Year to Date Market Overview (January - August 2012 versus January - August 2011)

  • 12.56% increase in Homes Under Agreement (26,529 homes versus 23,569)
  • 5.21% increase in Average Sale Price ($167,382 versus $159,098)
  • 1.28% increase in Homes Listed For Sale (26,901 versus 26,560)

If you are interested in a customized market report for your neighborhood, we can send you one for free! Find out more->

These numbers represent the 13-county area serviced by the West Penn Multi-List, Inc. (Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene, Clarion, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset and Indiana Counties) unless county is specified.

Embracing eSignature For Faster Deals

Prudential Preferred Realty is the first large real estate company in the Pittsburgh area to select the DocuSign® electronic signature solution to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to execute a real estate transaction to create a better client experience.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer our agents and customers the added convenience and speed that DocuSign’s eSignature technology provides,” said Jim Saxon, chief operating officer, Prudential Preferred Realty. “What used to take days or weeks, now takes minutes, as the multitude of signatures required during a real estate transaction, now can be gathered instantaneously with DocuSign.”

DocuSign is the global standard in eSignature and the leader within the real estate industry with more than 20 million customers worldwide who have signed more than 4 million real estate transactions electronically. According to DocuSign, real estate agents save an average of six hours per week by using the company’s eSignature service.

“Gathering signatures from clients who are in distant locations or who are not near fax machines or copiers always has been a challenge for real estate agents,” Saxon said.  “This new technology allows our clients to sign the necessary paperwork anywhere, anytime, on any device to significantly reduce the time it takes to execute the necessary paperwork associated with a real estate deal.”

Prudential Preferred Realty’s standardization on DocuSign’s eSignature solution comes on the heels of a company-wide professional development program to train all of the real estate company’s sales associates to use iPads and tablets to improve their business success and delight clients.  

Raymond Carnevali, real estate agent in Prudential Preferred Realty’s West office, had instant success using the technology. “While I was being trained to use DocuSign, I sent an agreement of sale to one of my customers,” Carnevali said. “By the time the brief training was complete, I had a fully executed agreement back from the customer, and I was able to get the accepted offer to the other agent without any delay. Both the customer and I were equally impressed with its speed and convenience.”

Is a Career in Real Estate Right for You?

Real estate careers offer a lot of flexibility for agents in terms of working hours, and they also present the opportunity for unlimited earning from commissions. As personal success is directly dependent upon individual effort, entrepreneurs and other highly motivated workers take well to the field. For people between jobs, even if they don’t have any previous experience in the real estate industry, becoming a realtor may be a smart career choice as well.

Realtor Responsibilities

A good deal of a realtor’s time will be spent working directly with clients, including showing and inspecting houses, helping to stage houses for sellers, preparing CMA reports, going over contracts and negotiations, and discussing the closing process. Properly preparing materials for client interactions may take up a good deal of time in itself. Agents are responsible for understanding the ups and downs of the market, often analyzing market updates on a daily basis. There is a lot of paperwork to process and keep track of as well. Finally, property listings must be studied, maintained, and serviced.

Skills for Working in Real Estate

Real estate agents are often in close contact with clients, so communication skills are an asset for this career, as are negotiation skills. A real estate agent must be well versed in local law regarding real estate transactions and should have a working knowledge of the local and national housing markets as they change. Above all, buyers and sellers prize honesty and responsiveness in the realtors they work with. Nothing is more frustrating or stressful than feeling cheated or ignored by someone handling an investment worth so much of your money, so these are needs that good real estate agents are sensitive to.

Obtaining a Real Estate License

To become a real estate agent in Pennsylvania, individuals must be at least 18, complete the coursework, and pass the licensure test. The two classes (Real Estate Fundamentals and Real Estate Practice at 30 hours each) cover terminology, theory, law, and the practical application of real estate transactions. The licensure test comprises 110-135 multiple-choice questions about general practice and Pennsylvania-specific law. To pass the exam, individuals must score at least 75%. The classes and exam each have their own fees. On average, it takes one to three months for qualified individuals to become licensed.

Interested? Find out how to kick start a career in real estate with Prudential Preferred Realty.

Pittsburgh Named Top Ten 'College Towns Primed For 2012 Investors' by

Recently, released it's Second Annual List on Collegiate Investment Markets and Pittsburgh graced the list.

As parents across the country prepare to send their college-bound students to school this fall, many quickly find housing can be a huge financial undertaking. Some are now considering buying homes for their students to live in with classmates, while other potential investors are looking at college towns for rental properties that'll deliver a steady stream of student tenants and profits.

Pittsburgh, PA – Home to Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh's median list price came in at $140,000 in July 2012, the lowest list price on the list of College Investment Towns. Average rental prices of $1,122 for all bedrooms are still much higher than the estimated mortgage payments of $520.

See more towns that made the list here>

*Photo credit: Michael Coghlan on flickr

Pittsburgh - One of The Best Cities For Millennials identified the best metropolitan areas for 18 to 29 year olds, taking into account affordable housing, low unemployment and access to nearby attractions and education. According to the report, these cities are far better for young people struggling with the economy than others.

The article says this of Pittsburgh, which came in #8 on the list.

"Pittsburgh has one of the largest public transportation systems in the U.S., serving over 200,000 riders per day as of 2011. Millennial residents can enjoy professional sports teams -- Pittsburgh is the hometown of the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins -- as well as pursue higher education from one of dozens of schools in the area, including U. Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne and others. Pittsburgh also has been regarded as one of the best arts and culture destinations in the U.S. for a decade. According to, millennials might enjoy a night out at South Side or Station Square districts for the best bars and clubs."

Read Full report

Photo caption: Jake recently bought a home in Lawrenceville with the help of a Prudential Preferred Realty agent.

Home Contracts Up 21 Percent in July - Pittsburgh Real Estate Market Report

July Pittsburgh Real Estate Market Overview
July 2012 versus July 2011

  • 21.31% increase in Homes Under Agreement (3,718 homes versus 3,065)
  • 11.93% increase in Average Sale Price ($192,505 versus $171,995)
  • 1.68% increase in Homes Listed For Sale (3,505 versus 3,447)

Year to Date Pittsburgh Real Estate Market Overview
January - July 2012 versus January - July 2011

  • 14.45% increase in Homes Under Agreement (23,245 homes versus 20,311)
  • 7.25% increase in Average Sale Price ($169,154 versus $157,727)
  • 1.50% increase in Homes Listed For Sale (23,476 versus 23,128)

"The Southwestern Pennsylvania housing market has been an anomaly compared to most of the rest of the country. We’re fortunate that our market not only has been stable, but also growing, during this challenging economic time.  We expect that the market will continue to remain active this fall." said Ron Croushore, President & CEO of Prudential Preferred Realty.

If you are interested in a customized market report for your neighborhood, we can send you one for free! Find out more->

These numbers represent the 13-county area serviced by the West Penn Multi-List, Inc. (Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene, Clarion, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset and Indiana Counties) unless county is specified.

AARP Names Pittsburgh 'Best Place To Retire'

When it comes to looking for a place to retire, cost of living often tops the list of considerations. But there's a difference between living cheaply and living well. In narrowing down their list of The 10 Best Places to Live on $100 a Day, AARP Magazine sought out towns and cities that offered not only bargain prices, but also a rich quality of life.

"With affordable arts (Pittsburgh is home to one of the nation's great symphony orchestras), terrific food (the aroma of ethnic eateries permeates the Strip District) and not one but three beautiful, bridge-spanned rivers to boat on, the Steel City has a lock on great reasons to live there." says the article in AARP magazine.

How Pittsburgh Transformed To A Thriving Multifacted Knowledge Based Economy

Its hard to believe that any American city, much less one in America's Rust Belt, added 14,700 jobs from March 2011 to March 2012 and now boasts more jobs tha it had at the beginning of the recession in 2008. But that's exactly what's happened in the Pittsburgh metro area.

"In Pittsburgh we have the perfect recipe for an even brighter future - beautiful neighborhoods, a young talented work force and strong public-private partnerships" said Mayer Luke Ravenstahl in a recent article on Pittsburgh in Delta's in-flight magazine.

Read the full article

June Real Estate Market Report: Home Prices and Sales Sizzle, Inventory Lags in June

"With historically low interest rates and increasing consumer confidence, the Southwestern Pennsylvania real estate market is hot.

Homes for sale aren’t lasting long on the market, and with a new school year quickly approaching, we can anticipate homes for sale will continue to sell briskly over the next two months. " says Ron Croushore, President & CEO of Prudential Preferred Realty.

June Market Overview June 2012 versus June 2011

18.56% increase in Homes Under Agreement (3,955 homes versus 3,336)
12.97% increase in Average Sale Price ($194,500 versus $172,177)
6.17% decrease in Homes Listed For Sale (3,589 versus 3,825)

Year to Date Market Overview January - June 2012 versus January - June 2011

14.99% increase in Homes Under Agreement (19,832 homes versus 17,246)
7.97% increase in Average Sale Price ($167,083 versus $154,748)
1.48% increase in Homes Listed For Sale (19,972 versus 19,681)

These numbers represent the 13-county area serviced by the West Penn Multi-List, Inc. (Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene, Clarion, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset and Indiana Counties) unless county is specified.

Pittsburgh Named On Of The Hottest American Cities of the Future

Business Insider named Pittsburgh one of its top fifteen hottest American cities of the future in a recent article.

"With its affordable housing, thriving student population, emerging arts and hip-hop scene, and fast-growing job market, Pittsburgh is quickly becoming the newest hipster haven." wrote Jennifer Polland in the article.

"The Steel City is attracting and retaining these young creative types with its cool cultural scene and thriving economy." she continues.

"It was recently ranked the second-best performing city in the US by the Metro Monitor from the Brookings Institute and one of the top cities in the US where people are hiring, according to Gallup. "

Southwestern Pennsylvania Real Estate Market Market Blossoms in May

"With historically low interest rates, we’re seeing a lot of activity in the real estate market, and we anticipate that the market will continue to stay hot throughout the summer." - Ron Croushore, President & CEO of Prudential Preferred Realty

May Market Overview May 2012 versus May 2011

  • 19.6% increase in Homes Under Agreement (4,144 homes versus 3,464)
  • 10.6% increase in Average Sale Price ($173,443,474 versus $156,780)
  • 2.6% decrease in Homes Listed For Sale (3,737 versus 3,835)

Year to Date Market Overview January - May 2012 versus January - May 2011

  • 16.5% increase in Homes Under Agreement (16,210 homes versus 13,910)
  • 6.1% increase in Average Sale Price ($158,644 versus $149,497)
  • 3.3% increase in Homes Listed For Sale (16,385 versus 15,856)

These numbers represent the 13-county area serviced by the West Penn Multi-List, Inc. (Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene, Clarion, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset and Indiana Counties) unless county is specified.

Today Show Spotlights A Pittsburgh Home As One of Hottest Buys Under $250,000

“What do you get for under $250,000?” A great four bedroom home in Ben Avon according to Barbara Corcoran, real estate contributor for the Today Show.

Recently, a Prudential Preferred Realty listing 140 Laurel Avenue in Ben Avon was featured on the Today Show segment “Hottest real estate under $250,000″.

Here is what Today real estate contributor Barbara Corcoran had to say about this four bedroom home listed at $219,900.

“This is a neighborhood on the Ohio river, just eight miles from downtown Pittsburgh. this is a 1910 gem that fits right in. The whole neighborhood has houses like this.

The entry has turned staircase with original wood he details. The living room has a gas log fireplace with a mirrored mantel and a brand-new joint job that sets off the white trim. the dining room has wood floors, and a built in china cabinet. The kitchen has been updated with tile floor and a back splash and the courtyard has a cabana and a stone wall planting bed which a lot of people like. Easy to reach, all surrounded by a tall, wood privacy fence.”

UPDATE: The home is no longer on the market. But was listed at the time of the TV airing by the Hall/Wotherspoon Team