From the category archives:

General Real Estate

Protect Your Home From Storms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Severe summer weather, such as hail, thunder, and heavy rain, can result in a great deal of damage to your home and other property. There are many steps that homeowners can take to protect themselves from the flooding and power outages that can result from severe weather events, so prepare ahead of time so that you’re not caught off guard. In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the most effective actions you can take to safeguard your home and property from dangerous and destructive summer storms.

Steps to Take Before a Storm

Typically you will receive warning at least a few days before a major storm arrives. This window of time gives you a chance to make the necessary preparations. Keep in mind that weather forecasts are never perfect; it’s better to prepare for a storm that never arrives, or that turns out to be weaker than anticipated, than not to be ready at all. Keep reading to learn a few things you can do when a major storm is ahead in the forecast.

• Thoroughly inspect your home and make sure you have done everything you can to secure it. This includes the items in your backyard and on your porch as well as indoors. Bring items such as trash cans, toys, lawn or patio furniture or any lightweight items that could become airborne indoors so they cannot blow away or become projectiles. If you have a swimming pool, make sure it’s securely covered.

• If you don’t have storm shutters on your windows, installing these can be an added layer of protection for your home. Another option is to upgrade your windows to a shatterproof material. These steps will help insulate your home during cold weather and protect it during storm season.

• If you have trees with loose branches, this is a good time to give them a trimming. You should also inspect your roof and make sure all of the shingles are secure. Your drains and gutters should be clear so they are able to do their job if there’s a heavy downpour.

• It’s always sensible to stock up on essentials when a severe storm is headed your way. This includes canned food, bottled water and toiletries. It never hurts to have extra supplies in your home even if you end up not needing them right away.

Dealing with Power Outages

Power outages are common during storms. This is something you should be prepared for. One of the best ways to be ready for a power outage is to have a backup generator. You can choose one that is sized appropriately for your needs. This can ensure that your home’s pumps, heating systems and any security systems keep working. A generator can prevent many problems associated with storms, such as flooding and food spoilage.

Whether you have a backup generator or not, you should also have some low tech solutions available in case of a power outage. This includes several heavy duty flashlights with plenty of batteries. Candles are also useful for keeping your home lit when the lights go out.

Preventing Floods

One of the most potentially destructive aspects of severe storms is the flooding they can cause. In terms of threats to both property and your family’s safety, floods are a top concern. Read on to find out a few ways you can protect your home from dangerous and costly water damage.

• Make sure that your gutters divert rain away from your home. If necessary, extend your rain gutters. Gutter should be free of debris. The slope of your yard should not cause water to enter your basement. It may be necessary to consult with a landscaper or other specialist to make adjustments in the direction surface water flows. For example, you may need to upgrade the quality of your soil.

• One of the most common causes of flooding is the failure of sump pumps and other systems in your home. As noted above, a backup generator will keep your sump pump powered and ready to remove water. The next best thing would be to get a battery-operated backup sump pump that will keep working if your main sump pump goes off due to a power outage.

• Fill in any cracks in your basement walls or foundation. Water can enter these cracks and cause flooding. You can seal cracks yourself or call a professional.

• Consider installing a home security system, geared specifically to notice if floodwater has entered your home. Many people hear “alarm” and think fire or burglar protection, but local ADT services in your area, and other flood sensor manufacturers, can install a system that will alert you if water rises even 1/16th of an inch in your home.

• Inspect your sewer or septic system. A clogged sewer or a septic tank that needs cleaning can cause a flood during a storm. Make sure to have your system inspected and maintained regularly.

Have insurance against flooding. While this won’t prevent floods, it will at least ensure that you are protected in case a flood does occur. A typical home insurance policy doesn’t cover floods, so you will probably need an additional policy for this.

Severe storms can unleash their fury any time of year, but they are especially common in spring and summer seasons. Keep track of the weather forecast in your area, and plan ahead. If you live in an area where storms are common, taking additional precautions might be necessary to ensure your home and your family are safe.

Don’t be caught by surprise. When you’re secure in the knowledge that you’ve done everything you can to prepare, you don’t have to fear Mother Nature. Protect your home by staying ahead of summer storms!

This article comes to Massachusetts real estate news via Beth Kelly who is a freelance writer based in Massachusetts.

 

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Best Google Plus Real Estate Posts June-July 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The internet makes it incredibly easy for information to be found. The problem is much of the information that is found on the internet is junk. Google Plus is one of the best places, if not the best place, to find quality real estate information! Google Plus communities, such as the Real Estate Community owned by Bill Gassett, are loaded with knowledge not only to make all of us better Realtors but to help consumers by providing rich content about buying and selling homes. This is a fantastic reason to encourage anyone who has an interest in real estate to join!

There have been many great articles published since Bill’s Best Google Plus Real Estate Articles May 2014 was published. Bill was actually kind enough to ask me to come over here to his blog to share my opinion on which articles I enjoyed reading the most. Here are several articles from the months of June and July that you should absolutely check out!

The Movement Against Zillow Estimates (“Zestimates”)

Over the past couple month’s there has been many real estate professionals writing about Zillow and other third-party real estate websites. Most of these articles have discussed and proven how inaccurate Zillow and other third-party websites truly are!
The first article, are Zillow estimates accurate by Bill Gassett is an in-depth explanation of the many problems with Zillow and their estimates. He explains the process by which Zillow uses to establish these estimates, explains why the estimates fail so often, and also gives some great reasons why real estate professionals hate Zillow.

Bill’s article was just the beginning to this movement over the past month against Zillow’s estimates. Debbie Drummond, a Las Vegas Real Estate Agent, followed up Bill’s article by giving an in-depth analysis of the effect of Zillows Estimates on the Las Vegas Real Estate Market. In this article she discusses why buyer’s need to take Zillows estimates with a grain of salt, which is absolutely true. During her analysis, she found that only 8 out of the 18 homes sold relatively close to what Zillow estimated these homes were worth. There aren’t many professions out there that allow a less than 50% accuracy!

Debbie’s article was followed by a great article by Andrew Fortune, “3 Reasons Why Local Real Estate Websites Are Better Than National Ones.”  In addition to the excellent infographic, Andrew discusses why consumers need to use local real estate websites, not national ones. Many consumers don’t realize that national real estate websites make money by selling advertising and leads to real estate agents. There are no requirements to be advertised on Zillow and other national real estate websites, other than the willingness to pay!

Andrew’s article was followed up by an article by myself, Zillow’s Home Value Estimates “Zestimates” – Accurate or Not?” . Like Debbie’s analysis of her Las Vegas Real Estate Market, I decided to perform an analysis on my local Rochester NY Real Estate Market. To no one’s surprise, less than 50% of Zillow’s “Zestimates” were relatively close to the 38 homes that were used in this analysis of recently sold Rochester homes.

This article also discussed other important reasons to not trust Zillow and other third-party websites. Third-party real estate websites often have outdated data due to the fact they are not held to any National, State, or Local regulations.
Four excellent articles within a month discussing the inaccuracies of Zillow and other national, third-party real estate websites. Bottom line, they cannot be trusted, and it is important that buyer’s and seller’s remember “LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL” when looking for real estate advice and information!

Real Estate & Internet Marketing

I want to make one thing clear, not every real estate agent markets the homes they sell the same, PERIOD! Over the past couple months, there have been a couple excellent articles discussing real estate and internet marketing.

Choose the right Realtor.

Many real estate agents will take a listing, put their sign up in the front yard, enter the listing into the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), and wait for the home to sell! Bill comes up with another gem of an article with his “Is Your Real Estate Agent a Post and Pray Realtor”.  In his post he gives many examples of a how to know you hired a bad real estate agent. These are the Realtors that are notorious for taking bad photographs, writing terrible descriptions of their listings, and don’t know how to market. Before hiring a Realtor, make sure to check out this terrific article on how to pick a Realtor!

Have a real estate blog.

Many real estate agents have discovered the power of having a real estate blog. There is nothing that can brand you better or show off your market expertise than having a blog. Of course if you know a little something about SEO it is even better as your content is likely to be found by consumers doing some kind of online real estate search. Seth Williams a blogger at RE- Tipster put an excellent reference together of some of the best real estate blogs at the current time. In Seth’s overview of some of the leading real estate industry blogs he groups them by collaborative blogs, real estate investing, marketing/technology, real estate economy and local Realtor blogs.

Have a visible internet presence.

The internet plays a huge role in the real estate industry nowadays! Buyers and sellers are beginning to their research online. A real estate agent who doesn’t use social media, doesn’t blog, and doesn’t have a website is stuck in the stone age of real estate! It is necessary and don’t ever let anyone tell you it isn’t! Karen Highland’s Real Estate and Internet Marketing article discusses the secret sauce of internet real estate marketing. Search engine optimization or SEO, is this “secret sauce” that isn’t really secret.

Any Real estate agent who has taken the time to blog regularly with quality content, interact socially, and work on their websites understands what internet marketing is and the impact it has on their business! Check out Karen’s article if you don’t believe that internet marketing is a huge part of the real estate industry, I think you will change your mind afterwards!

How to Buy a Home in a Seller’s Market

Many real estate markets across the country right now are in the midst of an extremely competitive seller’s market! Sellers are being able to “pick and choose” which of the multiple offers they would like to accept. While this is great for sellers, not so great for buyers! The good news is that there are things that can be done to help a buyer succeed in a seller’s market!

First and foremost, a buyer needs to be pre-approved, not pre-qualified! There is a major difference! In the article buying a home in a seller’s market, by Lynn Pineda, she does a marvelous job on explaining what a buyer can do to help themselves succeed with their home purchase. The tips given by Lynn can prevent the heartbreak associated with losing in a multiple offer situation.

These June and July “Best of Google Plus Articles” are just a small taste of what you can expect to find on Google Plus and more specifically, in a Real Estate Community, like the one owned by Bill Gassett! If you haven’t joined, what are you waiting for?

This review of what the Google Plus real estate community has to offer was written by Kyle Hiscock a top Realtor covering the Rochester New York area.

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How to Purchase From a FSBOWe talk a lot about buyer’s agents and listings agents and the benefits of both but what happens if your buyer finds a home that’s not listed with an agent? This is actually not that unusual because buyers will look for homes everywhere and they don’t really care where they find the house, only that they want to try and buy it.

This is what happened with one of my favorite clients. A young, single woman of about 22 working at the local pharmacy in town doing very well for herself and wanted to start investing in the real estate world. This is a great direction for her since she was young, had the funds for an FHA down payment and had a great head on her shoulders.

In my mind, there was no concern for her age when it came to jumping in with both feet. She found me online so she was well versed in searching the Internet. Even though I sent her several homes that met her criteria, the one she wanted to see came from an ad in the local newspaper. Of course it was a FSBO (for sale by owner) and in most cases those sellers may not want to deal with an agent, hence the FSBO in the first place.

But I still advocated on her behalf and called for an appointment. The gentleman was also young and in the military and couldn’t afford listing agent fees so he decided to try it on his own. Here we come, agent in tow.

He was very cordial but I could see he was nervous about the idea of an agent in the mix. My buyer loved the home however and wanted to make a full price offer. The seller asked me if I could assist in the sale and I said sure, for 3% of the sale price. A modest fee since I was now facilitating the deal on both sides. He understood and because he had no previous knowledge of how real estate worked, he agreed.

I found it odd that those that don’t know the process would risk such a high liability in legal documents by listing themselves but in his case, he lucked out with an agent that was not about to swindle, cheat or lie to him throughout the process even though my loyalties were first to my buyer.

We wrote up the deal and I explained everything to both buyer and seller and even though he was a little apprehensive as to all the documentation, I assured him it was all valid and above board. He signed and on we went to inspection.

Because this was an FHA, the house had to be approved under the strict guidelines for an FHA loan. But the previous owner purchased the house under VA terms so we were more than covered for FHA.

The snag came when the appraisal came in. The appraisal came in lower than the list price, and of course, lower than my buyer was willing to pay. When I informed the seller, again he was apprehensive but I gave proof and informed him of his options. He could terminate the transaction, my buyer could make up the difference or he could lower his price. Since my buyer didn’t have the extra funds and I informed him that any appraisal might return the same results, he agreed to lower the price.

I was able to open escrow for them, help them both through the procedure and close on time. The seller was happy and satisfied and I felt that he was my client just about as much as the buyer. I even gave him a moving away gift on closing day.

A Fine Balance of Power

Now this set up worked well but it can always go south quickly. Sellers can go behind the agent’s back and persuade the buyer to drop their agent and just deal one on one. This is where close communication between buyer and agent is so crucial. Buyers that think they know everything and how it all works and can be easily dissuaded into ditching their agent. The benefit I had with my first time buyer is that she trusted me to work for her no matter which home she chose. Regardless of what home you buy, have a buyer’s agent on your side.

I can’t stress this enough. Even though I am not in real estate any more I constantly tell my friends, family and just about anyone I know, get yourself a buyer’s agent! Don’t buy a house without one. You need the protection and assistance in case there is anything you don’t agree with or understand.

Buyers may think they understand the process and they may have even closed a few real estate transactions in the past but things change; rules, laws and requirements change and real estate agents are required to keep up with all of these. If you don’t understand something you’re signing and you don’t have a buyer’s agent to help, you may be signing something you really don’t agree with and it could lead to legal issues down the line.

Read more: Differences between listing agents and buyer’s agents

Also, listing agents have one primary goal – to sell that home! They don’t care if you don’t have a buyer’s agent, they may help with the transaction but again, you are not fully protected. Just as in my buyer going for a house without a listing agent, that seller had to trust that I knew what I was doing and wasn’t going to screw him over. Of course we didn’t, but if he had his own agent, that agent could have verified the purchase and sale agreement and made sure the seller was protected.

Yes, you can buy a house from a seller that does not have the property listed with an agent and still use your buyer’s agent. It’s up to the agent to negotiate with the seller on any commissions or fees paid at closing to the agent. The buyer doesn’t have to pay for the help of a buyer’s agent. Just another one of the many reasons I always say “Have your own agent when buying a home!”

Tammy EmenethAbout the author: Tammy Emineth writes dozens of  monthly blogs to offer assistance to real estate websites as well as all types of personal websites. Tammy does marketing and online promotion through various social media channels for her clients.

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Photography Helps Sell Real Estate

Real Estate PhotographyIf you’re like me, you probably enjoy looking at homes online. Many people browse homes on the internet for fun. My wife and I like to look online at homes for sale in Colorado Springs, deep in the quiet mountain areas where we could never live, with our current lifestyle. We like to daydream about what it would be like to wake up and sit outside with our coffee in the morning and enjoy the deafening silence of mountain seclusion.

It’s fun to daydream. But in reality, when you are seriously looking to buy a home, it can be frustrating when the images online are the only visual aid to help you determine whether or not a property is worth looking at. As a home seller, online property photos are one of your strongest assets for getting showings and eventually selling your home quickly, and for top dollar.

With photos being such a huge part of your home selling marketing leverage, it makes sense to have an extensive list of questions to ask the person taking the photos of your house when you’re ready to sell. I have been in the business for many years and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to real estate photos.

Through the years I have learned some major tricks of the trade, which I will share with you. Here are some good technical questions to ask your real estate photographer when listing your house for sale. These questions will help ensure that you get the best real estate photos possible.

What size wide angle lens do they use?

A wide angle lens captures more space and makes the room look as large as it possibly can. Most stock DSL cameras come with an 18mm wide angle zoom lens. In my experience, many real estate photographers are perfectly content with an 18mm lens, but in reality, this is not sufficient to capture the whole room, especially in smaller areas.

18mm lense vs 10mm lenseThe best size wide angle is normally a 10mm lens. An 8 mm lens will create a “fish eye” effect which distorts the image and makes it less appealing to online home buyers, while 10mm is where that threshold stops. A good professional real estate photographer will usually have an upgraded wide angle lens to capture the most amount of space possible.

Some 10mm wide angle lenses will create a slight “fish eye” effect, but image correction software, such as Adobe Lightroom, will correct and manipulate the image back to shape without losing the edges of the image.

Knowing whether your photographer uses a wide angle lens is probably the single most important piece of information that you can find out about them.

As you can see in the comparison image, the depth of the room is dramatically different with a 10mm lens as compared to a normal 18mm lens. In bedrooms and small areas, this difference can make or break an online home buyers desire to view your listing. Make sure to find out what kind of lens your real state photographer uses and don’t let them show up with a stock 18mm zoom lens.

Do they use HDR photography software?

HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging is a process that involves taking 3 or more photos of the same image, while using different light exposures. Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) is a feature found on most DSLR cameras. It will automatically snap multiple images while changing the light sensitivity on each one. One image will be Overprocessed HDRdark, one will be average, and one will be very light. By adjusting the ISO and/or aperture of each image, the three images gather light from different areas of the room which could never be captured in one single shot.

HDR software will then take the three images and overlay them to grab the best parts of each one and create one final processed image. This allows the photograph to have equal amounts of light gathered from all areas of the room.

Typically a single image without HDR will have darker and lighter areas because the depth of field, and a single shot cannot fully capture all the areas of a room in one shutter click. With HDR you can really make a room light up and cause the viewer to feel as though they are standing in the room as they look at it. It’s one of the greatest photography tricks for real estate, and should be an essential part of your real estate photographers skill set.

It should be noted that simply having the software to process HDR images is not enough to make a photographer’s images flawless. It’s easy to over process an image and make it look like a computer Overprocessed HDRgenerated image. Have you ever looked at homes online and noticed pictures that looked like virtual reality?

That’s HDR over-processing. A good real estate photographer will know how to use HDR to gather the best light features of each photo, without making it obvious that they are using software to manipulate it. Each photographer will have their own artistic touch that they add to their work. It’s important to know that your real estate photographer is aware of the unnatural affects of HDR over processing.

As with most artistic processes, moderation is the key. Using HDR in moderation to gently bring out the best light features of the room has a powerful effect on home buyers as they compare your listing with other real estate listings online. A good real estate photographer will make your listing stand out above the rest.

HDR imaging requires a tripod to get the best images, since it’s gathering 3 different images in a frame burst. Any slight movement of the camera will cause the photo to be blurry when processed.

If your real estate photographer shows up without a tripod, it should be a red flag that you are not getting the best quality images possible. Tripods are a necessity for good lighting. Make sure your real estate photograph knows how to use HDR imaging and uses a tripod with a decent wide-angle lens.

What model camera do they use?

This is a very important questions. Since cameras are all digital now, new current models out perform old models by a long shot. The shutter speeds and image quality of today’s cameras are incredible. If your photographer is using a camera they bought in 2001, it’s highly likely that they are getting less quality images than a comparable new DSLR Camera. One of the main aspects to new camera technology is the frames per second. Here is a great list that shows the FPS of each popular camera on the market: http://www.hdr-photography.com/aeb.html. You’ll notice that Nikon and Canon seem to have the most powerful cameras on the market, which is why you generally see these cameras everywhere.

Take the model number of the camera your photographer uses and cross reference it with this list. This will give you a good idea of the quality of the equipment that they use. I personally wouldn’t want my photographer to use a camera that has any less than 6 fps. The images above were taken with a Canon 70D, which is a great camera for real estate photography.

Do they use a flash?

To a photographer that has been around for a while, using a flash has a bit a nostalgia. Old cameras did not have the ability to capture light at the speed of modern cameras, therefore using a flash was the best way to enhance the lighting in an image. The problem with using a standard flash for real estate photography is that it creates shadows in the image and takes away   Using flash vs natural lightingambient lighting features. If someone uses a flash for real estate photography, they are most likely not using HDR imaging, and are not as knowledgeable of new camera technology and the best ways to capture natural light.

If your real estate photographer shows up with a flash, it should be a red flag that you are not going to get the best possible pictures for your real estate listing. Unfortunately, there are many real estate agents who do not want to pay the expense of hiring a professional photographer, or learn how to take professional photos themselves. They show up with an average camera and a clunky flash, (or worse yet- use their phone) and start shooting away.

As a full-time REALTOR, I look at thousands of real estate photos every year. When I take photos for my own listings, I generally snap around 500 images and then narrow them down to the top 20 to 30 photos. If you hire a real estate agent who does not respect or understand the complexities of professional photography, it may have a great impact on your ability to attract the most amount of buyers to your listing.

Make sure that you ask the questions mentioned in this article to avoid getting stuck with some bad real estate listing photos. There are so many bad real estate photos out there that people have created websites fully devoted to mocking and displaying them.

Are you in good hands with your real estate photographer?

There are many common questions that you can ask a photographer, such as “how long have you been a photographer?” and “ how often are you hired to take photos for people?”, but in my experience, the 4 questions listed above will cut straight to the heart of the interview and will quickly let you know whether you are dealing with a pro, or a novice. If you are dealing with a novice, stand your ground and ask for a better photographer.

The images that you and your REALTOR put online are extremely valuable. Photography is one of the most important aspects of real estate marketing. You do not want to be one of the many sellers who have poor images which turn buyers away. Photography is a vital part of good real estate marketing. You want to have images that make buyers emotionally attach to your house before they ever set foot inside it.

With all the knowledge you now know after reading this article, you should be able to determine the professional ability of your real estate photographer. Just to recap, here are some of the main things you need to look for when your photographer shows up:

  • They should have a good wide angle lens, preferably a 10mm.
  • They should have a tripod.
  • They should have a newer model camera.
  • They should not use a flash.

For a humorous look at how much influence online real estate photos have on the real estate business, take a look at my article called Looking at Homes Online Versus In Person. The info-graphic in the article will give you a good idea of what buyers deal with when shopping for a home online. It can be very frustrating for a buyer to look at a home in person, only to realize that it is very different from the way it was marketed online.

If you plan on selling your house, do your own due diligence and interview the photographer with these questions. If you are not comfortable interviewing them, then ask your REALTOR to do it. If your REALTOR is your photographer, you definitely want to ask them these questions, because most REALTORS are not professional photographers. Simply having a high end camera does not equate them with being a professional.

Photography is a challenging industry that is always evolving. Having the person responsible for your valuable real estate photos be on top of their game can really swing the odds in your favor when listing your house for sale. The image above of the upside down house is one I saw just yesterday while looking at homes for a client in Colorado Springs. Yes, this really just happened. Don’t assume that your listing will look great. These kinds of mistakes are common and I hope that it never happens to you. I wish you the best of luck with your online real estate photos. With the information that you have learned from this article, you should do great!

How to get the best photos when selling your home was written by Andrew Fortune. Andrew is a Real Estate agent in the Colorado Springs area and enjoys collaborating with other real estate bloggers and social media experts to help inform consumers of the important details involved in today’s real estate market. His website, GreatColoradoHomes.com is a great resource for home buyers and sellers in the Colorado Springs area.

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Don’t Get Too Emotional When Buying a Home

June 18, 2014

Keep Emotions in Check Purchasing Real Estate Getting too emotional when buying a home can cost you big time! The last thing you want to do is create a lot of extra stress for yourself when buying in home. In order to make your purchase go smoothly we have consulted with Lolly Spindler of HouseHunt [...]

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The Inspection and Walk Through – What to Look For

June 11, 2014

The inspection and walk through are two very different AND very important things to do when buying a home. A home inspection is a limited and non-evasive examination of the condition of a home by a home inspector. A final walk through is a final inspection where the buyer makes certain that the property they’ve [...]

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How to Mitigate Injuries When Moving

June 6, 2014

Preventing Injuries While Making a Move It’s surprisingly easy to injure yourself or somebody else when moving out of one home and into another. From breaking fragile objects and cutting yourself, to throwing your back out trying to lift heavy furniture, moving can be dangerous for the inexperienced. While it might be safest for you [...]

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How to Find The Right Realtor When Selling A Home

June 4, 2014

                              Most home sellers leave the equivalent of a nice used car behind when they sell their home. That’s right, the “several percent” that most home sellers lose during the real estate negotiation amounts to the same as leaving a nice [...]

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Your Home Is an Investment – So Treat It Like One

May 28, 2014

                              This article comes all the way from Vegas. Debbie Drummond has been a full time Realtor in Las Vegas since 2003.  She specializes in the luxury home and high rise market.  Debbie’s website is The Las Vegas Luxury Home Pro where [...]

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Using Pinterest For Real Estate Social Media Exposure

May 18, 2014

Pinterest For Real Estate                               If you have not heard of Pinterest then you have probably been on a long hibernation from the internet over the last few years. There are not many social media platforms that have stormed onto the [...]

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