15 ways to be more productive with your business day


Let’s face it, we all want more time to get more done, be more, and have more.  So why is it that some people are just much more efficient at squeezing more out of every work day?  Here are a few things I do that might help you can get started on your way……..

  1. –Get up an hour earlier,  For me, that’s when the house is quiet, the kids are asleep and I can get a LOT done while I’m drinking my coffee.
  2. –Use Sunday evening for planning my week.
  3. –Say no. (the power of constraints). Ignore. Focus only on the thing you’re looking to achieve.
  4. –Turn off your emails on your phone.  This is great for me – means I’m not jumping every time the phone beeps, saves the phones’ battery life too.
  5. –Use a simple to-do-list and only put THREE things on it to get done each day.  I use TeuxDeux.
  6. –Plan your day according to the most important, biggest task, not the smallest and easiest.  Get your “big rocks” out of the way first thing – you’ll be happy you did.
  7. –Know what the next step is at the end of every conversation.
  8. –Set a timer to go off at 30 minute intervals to focus on one activity and take a short 1 minute break to refocus
  9. –Take a proper break after 2 hours for 10-20 minutes – do some pushups or get out in the fresh air.
  10. –Ask yourself  “is what I’m doing right now getting me closer to what I want to achieve.?”
  11. –Know what you’re looking to achieve – what does “finished” look like?
  12. –Keep an idea book to dump your distractions in, and come back to them a week later.  Or a vision board – I have both.
  13. –Work out what is important and what isn’t important to do.
  14. –Stop procrastinating and just DO it!
  15. –Outsource – get help using oDesk and Elance, and have someone else design your blog in 2 days instead of you taking 3 weeks.


California Rents Remain Among The Highest In The Country


Studies show that year after year California renters pay some of the highest rents in the country.  In fact a shocking six of the 10 most expensive counties in the country are in California.  This includes:
3rd highest San Mateo County
4th Highest San Francisco County
5th Highest Marin County
7th Highest Orange County
8th Highest Santa Clara County
9th Highest Santa Cruz

What this means for renters is that it is almost impossible to afford average rent costs on a minimum wage salary.  Minimum wage in California is a low $8 an hour, and an average two bedroom apartment rents for around $1300 per month.

This leaves families living a quality of life that they would not wish for themselves or their families.  It is not unusual to find people in these counties working more than one job to make ends meet.

High rent costs also makes moving to these areas of California near impossible for many individuals as it is just too expensive to live.

There is hope that Federal minimum wage will increase to at least $9 per hour by 2015, however there is a lot of push back on this decision from business owners because they are concerned they will not be able to afford the higher pay rate.

This leaves families living a quality of life that they would not wish for themselves or their families.  It is not unusual to find people in these counties working more than one job to make ends meet.

High rent costs also makes moving to these areas of California near impossible for many individuals as it is just too expensive to live.

There is hope that Federal minimum wage will increase to at least $9 per hour by 2015, however there is a lot of push back on this decision from business owners because they are concerned they will not be able to afford the higher pay rate.

Getting Started with Green Investing

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Greenhabbing, or green real estate investing, is the future. It’s so new, I should probably describe it to you.

Greenhabbing is the idea that a property is more valuable if it is more energy efficient and healthier. For the average investor, it can mean making simple changes that make things work better and emit less toxic chemicals. There are some simple rules for greenhabbing a property.

The materials that you use should be from sustainable sources that don’t emit toxic vapors.

The property, once you have it all completed, should cost at least 30% less to operate than a comparable property.

It should have less environmental impact than a “normal” property.

Making these changes can be as simple as installing a new heating a cooling unit. You can replace the carpet with natural fiber products or from sustainable sources, like bamboo. New windows made from sustainable products can make the home much lass expensive to operate.

So how will you choose a good greenhabbing investment? Simple. Here are the basic guidelines:

•30% less to operate
•Nontoxic, sustainable products used in construction
•Reduced environmental impact
•Healthier living environment
•At least a 10% return on investment

Here’s what I believe – I think that if the whole world was greenhabbed away from the inefficient designs of the past, if everyone took the time to take the toxins out of their houses, we would all be better off.

A greenhabbed home costs less to operate. The people inside will be healthier. This could change a lot of things. Energy cold be less expensive. Health care costs could go down.

As an investment, greenhabbing can provide massive returns. If you change a house to being greener, you will be able to sell the house for significantly more than you bought it for. You can also expect to see lots more potential buyers.

One of the best ways to get money out of a greenhabbing project is to look for the rebates, tax credits and incentives that are offered by governmental bodies and corporations to build a green world.

So, how can you choose a good house to work on? Start by looking for homes that are a bit older but not ancient. Make sure that the house is structurally sound. Before you buy the property, you should figure out which parts of the home you are going to greenhab. You will want to make sure that you can greenhab the property well and quickly enough to get your return on investment.

Learning to turn a profit on greenhabbing can potentially be nothing more than keeping your eyes and your mind open. Most importantly: you need to bring as much passion to your project as you do construction know-how.

Greenhabbing is all about building a better world while we are building better individual homes.

Good luck and think green!


5 Tips Potential Buyers Would Give Sellers (if they could)

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It is rare in today’s market for a buyer and seller to meet at any point during the selling process.  We leave the marketing and selling in the trusted hands of our realtors and they make the magic happen.
Even when you have the utmost faith in your realtor you sometimes you need a bit more motivation to make your home appealing to potential buyers.  If you could only have the chance to hear what potential buyers have to say about your home, you could make it more desirable.

The good news is—your realtor does hear what buyers are saying and can pass this along to you!  Below are a list of tips created by the most common comments and suggestions potential buyers want sellers to know:

Tip #1 Look At Your Online Listing

You selected a realtor, you know that pictures will be placed online for marketing, but do you ever look to see how they turned out?  You would be surprised by how many buyers won’t even view a house unless they like the online pictures.  Since you know your home better than anyone take a look at your listing once it is online and give feedback and suggestions on the pictures.  Consider things such as:

• Does it represent you house well?
• Was their poor lighting that day?
• Were there any messy areas that are in the background of the photos?
• Are there enough photos to make a good impression?
• Would you want to buy your house if you saw the listing and photos?

Give your realtor input if you think there is improvement in the picture arena.

Tip #2 If Someone Is Overly Critical, They’re Interested

While you typically aren’t home when your house is being presented to potential buyers, sometimes a buyers comments get back to you.  Like the couple who criticized your flower beds, your paint color, and your carpeting.  You’re human and it’s your home they are talking about so it can be upsetting to hear—but if they weren’t criticizing they don’t care.  If they don’t care they won’t buy.  More often than not the overly critical potential buyer becomes your actual buyer.  Their criticism comes from their vision of making your home their home.

If criticism gets back to you from the neighbor that overheard, let it go because that just might be your buyer!

Tip #3  One and Only

Shopping for a house is not like shopping for a new blouse or tie—if you find two when you went to the store you can buy both right?  However this is not the case when shopping for homes.  When someone is looking for a home, they only need to find one they like, one that is the best fit.

Keep this top of mind when you are prepping your home or maintaining any home you plan to sell in the future.  If you don’t keep up with the little details, a buyer may find a similar home in the same price point that has that little something extra—enough to chose a similar home over yours.

Tip #4 Not Everyone Wants To Negotiate

As sellers one of your strategies might be to overprice your home so that you have room to negotiate down to what you are willing to sell for.  This strategy may work in your market, but it may be a deterrent in your market too.  Make sure to discuss this with your realtor to decide the best plan of action when pricing your home.

You have to remember that your buyers search online by price ranges.  If you are too overpriced from what you are willing to sell for, your home may not even show up in search results.  The other deterrent is that some buyers really don’t like to negotiate.  If you are extremely overpriced, many buyers won’t even waste the time to look at your home because it is too far out of their price range.

Bottom line—leaving wiggle room is good, but too much can detract buyers.

Tip #5 Staging Is The New Standard

Magazines, reality TV, and home improvement shows have created exceptionally high expectations when it comes to staging a home.  Staging is now a must and is far more than just cleaning and picking up around the house.

When staging, think of your home like the page of a magazine instead of a living space.  Many buyers are hiring professional stagers that will guide you to make the necessary changes—new paint, new carpet, décor, furniture, and minimalize everything.

If hiring a pro is not in your budget read up on staging and take a critical eye to your home.  Don’t think of your home as “your” home when staging.  Think of it as the advertisement that is clean, crisp, declutter, and modern.

To increase your odds of a faster sale listen to these tips from buyers.

The Latest Celebrity Home “Must Have”


Celebrity homes always have the latest and greatest features that most of us dream of in our homes.   Full sized tennis courts, movie theaters, helicopter landing pads, and Olympic sized pools.

The newest celebrity must have is full-sized basketball courts!

We’re not talking about the hoop above the garage—we’re talking about a full court with court markings and everything – Even a bench for players that are waiting their turn on the court.

It’s not just Hollywood’s basketball pros that are having courts installed, it’s you’re A-listers too.  Celebrities like Will Smith, Selena Gomez, Jamie Foxx, and Leonardo DiCaprio enjoy a full-sized court in the comfort of their own homes.

In 2012 alone a shocking 21 homes sold with full sized basketball courts in Southern California.  So far this year there are 13 homes with courts that have sold.  And as more celebs install courts we will see this trend continue to rise.

The full sized courts are not welcomed with open arms by all of these celebs neighbors.  There have been complaints of noise and concerns that the large courts are an eyesore that will decrease residential value.  Nonetheless celebrities are trend setters.  While we may not all have the room or finances to install full-sized courts, you will see non-celebs begin to up the ante on their home courts.

Tax Break Tips For Home Owners


Before we know it  April 15th will be here and our taxes will be due.  If you are a home owner you may be eligible for some additional tax breaks that you aren’t aware of.

Before you meet with your accountant review this list to see below to see which itemized deductions you qualify for. Then bring any pertinent information to your appointment.

Tax Break Tip #1 Interested Paid At Closing
On your closing statement there is typically a line called “home mortgage interest”. If you purchased a new home for less than 1 million dollars, you can add the interest you paid to your itemized deductions. This would be included on a Form 1040, Schedule A.

Tax Break Tip #2 Property Taxes
The key here is that the property taxes you are paying are for the true assessed value of your property. If that is that case you are able to deduct state and local property taxes. The exception is if you have money that is still in escrow that is reserved for property taxes.

Tax Break Tip #3 Home Office
As more and more of us are working from home, we are now able to file for deductions for our home office of our small business. The key here is to have an official space within your home that is used exclusively as your place of business. If you meet these requirements you can deduct office supplies, repairs, upgrades, insurance, and depreciation.

Tax Break Tip #4 Fees For Points
If you paid points when you obtained your mortgage, you can deduct the fees. You just have to make sure that all of the fees are associated with your purchase. If you refinanced your mortgage you should talk with your accountant about the fees for points that qualify as a deduction. The deduction is a bit different with a refinance as the points must be deduced over the term of your new mortgage.

Tax Break Tip #5 Sales Expenses
As we all know there are always investments that need to be made prior to selling your home. You can include any costs, fees, and repairs associated to the sale of your home that you incurred within 90 days of your sale. This includes title insurance, broker’s fees, staging expenses, and advertising expenses.

Tax Break Tip #6 Interest on Home Improvement Loans
If you took out a loan for “capital improvements” on your home you are able to claim this deduction. Capital improvements include and improvements that add value to your home such as adding an extra room or new plumbing. Things like painting, changing carpet, and redecorating are not qualifying deductibles.

Tax Break Tip #7 Interest on Construction Loans
This deduction is only applicable if you take out a construction loan on your primary place of residence or second home. This deduction will only cover the first year of your loan, even if the construction project extends beyond one year.

Tax Break Tip #8 Home Insurance Premiums
This potential deduction is one you will want to bring to bring to your accountants attention as the qualifying terms are a bit tricky. You may qualify to deduct your premiums for your primary residence and second home, if your income falls within certain parameters. Check with your accountant to see if you qualify.

As tax laws and criteria to qualifying for deductions are in constant flux, check with your accountant to ensure you are maximizing your deductions.

Real Estate is a Service Business and Service Matters


Today’s high-tech world has us all juggling multiple means of communication—cell phone, work phone, voicemail, email, text, IM, BBM, and social media.  

There are so many ways to communicate and the internet has made us so easily accessible that the sheer volume of incomingcommunication can be overwhelming. When we get overwhelmed customer service can easily get lost in the shuffle.

Many of us don’t work from an office full-time and have to respond to our clients while on the go.  Even with all of the demands on our time we have to make sure that we hear our customers needs.  It is beyond just listening, we must listen with the intent to learn something and not with the intent to simply check one more response off or our “To Do” list.

You could be providing the best services or product available, but if your customer service is lacking your clients will go elsewhere.  

Your clients can sense when your response is rushed,sloppy, or a canned.  Focus more attention on giving your clients, collegues, family, and friends a personalized response.  

Whether personal or professional, listening to learn will extend the longevity and quality of your relationships.

Home Fashions Come, and Home Fashions Go

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Ever-changing Interior Design Trends

Interior design trends are similar to clothing trends.  One day a 1930’s dress is vintage the next day it’s a “modern take on a classic style”.  Interior design trends are the same—everything old is new again, and soon the new will become old.

Take a look back at the decorative changes you’ve made over the last decade or so.  When you painted your dining room and got a new dining room set  your previous set was probably in great condition, but the room was no longer on trend.  It was time for the Victorian to be replaced with Contemporary.

I remember my mom’s great excitement over her beach themed seafoam green bathroom with shell motif.  At the time it was the envy of all her friends. Now I just can’t imagine such a thing when not at an actual beach—and even then I’m not so sure anymore!  

The popularity of home improvement and home interior TV and magazines has peaked our creativity and challenges us to stay on trend when it comes to interior design.  Interior design trends have one constant, they will change and evolve and we will continue to update our homes as they come and go.

The Concept of Time in Real Estate


Buyers and sellers always ask me questions about time.

How long will it take to sell my house?

How long will it take the seller to respond to my offer?

How long will it take to find the right home?

None of these questions have answers.

We can make an educated guess as to how long it will take to sell a home based on market conditions and price.

We can not predict how long it will take a seller to respond to an offer.  In general they should respond quickly but there are obstacles like jobs and illnesses that slow the process down.  Sellers usually respond more quickly to really great offers than to offers they don’t like.

As a real estate agent practicing business in a crazy market like Los Angeles,  I like to let my clients know what to expect, and they need to know they can expect most anything.  We can never predict what another person will do, we just know what they are supposed to do.  Remember, I am a facilitator of your real estate transaction, but you are and always will be the decision maker.  It is my job to educate you and give you guidance based on my experience, but you make all of the decisions.

There are many reasons for being slow to respond to an offer or a counter offer but there is no good reason for not communicating to other agents or to clients if only to say this is going to take awhile, yet often people will not take the time to communicate this, instead the avoid the situation or the client.  Is that the type of real estate agent you want to hire?

Adding a Guest House – the Single Best Improvement you can Make to your Property

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What is the best improvement you can do to your home to increase the value? Add an in-ground pool? A hot tub? New windows and siding? Nope, none of these.

The single best improvement you can make to your home and land is to build a new house – a guest house.

The economy has been limping along for a while. Because of economic difficulties or choice, family members are living together longer. Grandparents are living with their adult children. Children are staying with parents through college and longer.

Even for those who are doing well, having a separate house for a nanny can make the job much nicer for the nanny and the family.

The best part of a guest house is that it adds value without having to make your existing home a lot larger and it’s a lot cheaper to do. Because a guest house would has its own bathroom, bedroom and kitchen, anyone living there can live a completely independent life.

Perfect for every need

For aging parents, this can mean years of complete freedom while still being close enough for family to help when it is needed. An elderly mother or father can live in one of these small houses easily. Since there is generally not a lot of square footage, the house is easy to clean and maintain. Generally all one floor, there are no stairs to negotiate, eliminating some of the worries of falling down.

Adult children are finding it harder and harder to get a start in the current economy. Jobs are harder to find and housing, especially without a lot of credit history, can be very difficult to afford. A guest house can give them the freedom they deserve while allowing them to still live at home. Because they are in a completely separate house they have all the privacy an adult needs, without the expense and hassle of moving away completely.

Nannies and servants will feel more comfortable having a private space that they can retire to at the end of the day. Not needing to be in the main house means that they can feel like their work day is actually ending, as opposed to being just down the hall from the children or family that they work for. You will be much more likely to get a higher quality of domestic help if they have their own space to live in.

Maybe you just need a place for family to stay when they visit, or a home office away from the kids and the bustling house? After all, that was the original function of the guest house, wasn’t it?

Increase your property value

Property value is almost guaranteed to increase substantially. Because family situations and living arrangements have changed so much of the past few years, there are hundreds of thousands of people in need of guest houses looking at real estate every day.

If you find yourself selling your property, you will be able to accommodate those people who are coming onto the market with the need for a guest house. These buyers won’t need to worry about having to live together in the main house while they build a separate house.

Putting up a guest house

There is a couple of ways to get the new house onto the property:

First, of course, you can build it right on site from scratch. There are all kinds of floor plans available on line for free or nearly free. Since they are one story houses and not very complex, it’s very easy to find plans that are suitable.

The second way to put a guest house on your property is to purchase a prefabricated house and have it delivered to you. There are several companies right in California. These pre-fab homes are great quality and some of them cost less than the price of decent new car.

Getting Your Home Organized and Ready to Sell


I know, de-cluttering and getting organized seems to be quite a large project, especially when you’re in the middle to list and sell your home.. The trick is to break it down into several smaller tasks. For example, when you are preparing to sell your house, it is crucial for you to organize each room. This sounds as though it is a huge daunting project. To begin such a large task, focus on de-cluttering and organizing each room, one at a time. If focusing on the entire room is too large of a project for you, break the room down into smaller tasks. Could you handle starting with the bedroom closet, and then possibly moving on to the, say, the dresser? Getting the work done in small sections is still better than not accomplishing anything at all. 

But before you can break the project into different sections, you must first decide where to start. When trying to decide where to being, it may feel impossible. Take a look at the below four steps, and you will be set to start wherever you feel best.

Pull it all out.  Regardless of whether you are keeping the item, donating it, or tossing in the garbage, remove it from the area you are organizing.

After every item is removed from the space you are working on, it is time to move furniture, and other large objects into their final positions, or as close to their final positions as you can get. Remember, you can always re-arrange things later on if needed.

Clean, clean, cleanWhile you have everything out of the room, or space, clean it thoroughly. Having everything our out of the way gives you the chance to find dust bunnies, and other dirt and debris that you would normally not see, or be able to access easily.

Do the same for each and every item you bring back into the space. After all, who wants dirt and dust particles flying around on a freshly cleaned bookshelf, especially when it’s due to the book not being wiped down.

Sort your itemsThis step is commonly seen on the popular television show The Clean House. When removing items from the space, sort them into several piles:

  • Keep: This pile is for the things you are going to put back
  • Donate/Sell: This pile is for the items that are still in good shape, but are not being used.
  • Reuse: This pile takes items that were cluttering one room, and uses it for a different purpose in another room.
  • Recycle: This pile is used for items that you are getting rid of that can be recycled. For example, if you come across a large stack of old paper that you do not need and are going to toss, throw it in the recycle pile
  • Toss: These items simply need to be thrown in the trash.

Remember, you want to keep the area organized and neat. Be sure that everything has it’s own place, and does not begin to clutter the area you are working to neatly organize.  You want to get top dollar for your home, don’t you?  To do so, a potential buyer needs to be able to see your HOME, not just your “stuff”.