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Tag Archives: Housing

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Good news in your job search: Harry, Larry, and the bear

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What is North America’s No. 1 domestic issue of most concern to the average person? Politics? Coronavirus? Who will win Super Bowl LV? Nope! The thing that concerns most people is still jobs.

Whether you are 18 or 80, you’ve likely never seen it more difficult to find a great job in your field of interest in your lifetime. Lockdowns in various regions of the country, overseas competition, and rapidly changing methods employers use to fill jobs have all made it difficult for good people to find good jobs.

A recent article says many grads in the class of 2021 will face stiffer competition for jobs than ever. Many adult job seekers reach out to 100 or more employers before they get a yes. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that a career search won’t get any easier for the foreseeable future.

But there is good news! Let me introduce you to my two good friends, Harry and Larry. They are backpacking enthusiasts and have driven their SUV as far into the Colorado wilderness as the roads go. They are about 5 miles from their SUV when suddenly up pops an angry bear about 400 yards away!

They see him, and he sees them. Immediately Harry drops to his knees and pulls his sneakers out of his backpack and laces them up. Larry looks down at Harry and says, “Dude, you think a pair of Nikes is gonna let you outrun that bear?” Harry replies, “No man…I just gotta outrun you.”

Isn’t it the same thing with a job search? There are jobs out there that you would love to have. Your challenge is to outrun the competition you are facing (i.e., “Larry”). Even if unemployment surges to 20%, there is still 80% employment and a lot of open jobs to fill. That means there are always job openings to be filled along with strong competition for those openings.

The first step in outrunning the competition is getting invited to interview for positions that fit you and your career goals.

Here are 10 things you can do right away to improve your chances of winning the race to get to that interview:

1. Educate yourself about what you do and do not know about conducting an effective job search in today’s marketplace. Consider best practices job search books like “Get A Better Job Faster” on Amazon to educate yourself on current and emerging best practices. Its advice could be worth a half-million dollars in lifetime earnings to you.

2. Understand this is not your daddy’s job search. Job search today is being done with keyword search, so unless you have the right set of keywords embedded in your application resumes, and online profiles, you will not get a single look, even if you are the most qualified person in the world to fill a particular job.

3. Start looking at job postings to identify positions that interest you. For each position of interest, look carefully at the job posting and/or position description and identify the keywords. Every employer looking for talent has identified a set of 1-2 dozen keywords they will use to find candidates.

4. Build a complete LinkedIn profile. Now more than ever, employers are searching the over 700 million LinkedIn profiles holders worldwide to find the best talent to fill openings. In keeping with point No. 2, multiple use of the right keywords will mean that your profile comes up higher in an employer’s search for candidates.

5. Build a resume template in “plain text” (text that has no formatting or special characters, such as bolding or bullet points). You’ll use this “base resume” to create individual customized resumes that are tailored to specific positions of interest.

6. Embed the top 20 or so keywords for each position of interest to customize your application or resume upload for a specific job opportunity. This will dramatically improve the chances that your resume will be selected as a candidate to be interviewed. You’ll need to have at least an 85% keyword match rate to the employer’s criteria in order to have your resume and application considered… some jobs may be even higher.

7. Network like crazy. Because many job openings are unadvertised, networking offers the opportunity to discover positions that you’d otherwise not know about. The quality of your networking is determined by the quality and quantity of your network times the quality and frequency of interacting with your network in a meaningful way.

8. When you network, be a giver and not a taker. Help others in areas where you have experience and talent. Share your best practices. Encourage and support others. Practice positivity. Make connections between your connections where it benefits both of them. You’ve got to invest before you can see a return.

9. When you network, don’t be the hammer looking for a nail. Just because someone accepts your request to connect doesn’t entitle you to start soliciting them for help in your job search. Or to buy what you’re selling.

10. Consider a coach. LinkedIn Profinder can help you locate a coach ideal to help you move ahead in your career, regardless of your specific career situation. A good coach gives you a return on your investment well exceeding 1,000 times. It will be the best investment you make in yourself all year.

In future articles, we’ll explore some best practices for your job search. Until next time, don’t forget your “job search Nikes!”

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Seattle, Salt Lake City, Boston top list of best cities for construction

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With high business failure rates, long payment delays, safety risks, and complex regulatory requirements, U.S. construction companies operate in a challenging environment. But every city is not created equally; location makes a big difference in a construction company’s opportunity for success.

In a review of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, Levelset compared cities on a variety of construction-related factors, including starts, employment, safety, salaries, weather, and lien security. These 10 cities won top honors as the best places for construction businesses and laborers.

  1. Seattle
  2. Salt Lake City
  3. Boston
  4. Phoenix
  5. Las Vegas
  6. Sacramento
  7. St. Louis
  8. Houston
  9. Austin
  10. Orlando

Seattle was named as the top spot as the best U.S. city for construction, winning the safety category and earning big investments in construction starts. The city had just 0.05 fatalities per 1,000 construction laborers over the past three years. Seattle has also seen big investments in the building sector, with $3,535 in construction starts per capita in 2019.

Salt Lake City came in at No. 2 on the list, thanks in part to Utah’s strong lien protection for contractors and suppliers, and an annual average of 222 days of sunshine. The city was also second overall for construction employment, with nearly 4.5 construction workers per 1,000 residents.

In third place, Boston also earned a stellar safety rating, with just 1 OSHA-reported fatality since 2017, an average of 0.07 per 1,000 laborers. At an average of $56,790, the city’s construction laborers also enjoy some of the highest salaries in the country, No. 14 overall after adjusting for cost of living.

Construction starts

The value of new residential and commercial construction projects started gives a strong indication of investment in the industry, and economic optimism. These were the top five cities for construction starts (per capita value):

  1. Nashville, Tennessee ($4,754)
  2. Austin, Texas ($4,651)
  3. Raleigh, North Carolina ($4,403)
  4. Jacksonville, Florida ($3,976)
  5. Orlando, Florida ($3,951)

Construction labor

High labor numbers indicate a strong job market, which is good for both laborers and construction businesses. These cities took the top five spots (per 1,000 residents):

  1. Houston (4.6)
  2. Salt Lake City (4.5)
  3. Seattle (4.4)
  4. Pittsburgh (4.33)
  5. Orlando, Florida (4.30)

Construction salaries

High salaries and wages are another indicator of a competitive job market and highly skilled workforce. These were the top five cities for construction manager and laborer salaries, after adjusting for inflation (unadjusted salary):

Managers

  1. Charlotte, North Carolina/South Carolina ($117,620)
  2. St Louis ($113,770)
  3. Columbus, Ohio ($107,420)
  4. Milwaukee ($118,560)
  5. New Orleans ($107,960)

Laborers

  1. St. Louis ($54,820)
  2. Chicago ($64,870)
  3. Columbus, Ohio ($47,890)
  4. Minneapolis ($57,100)
  5. Cleveland ($49,890)

Safety

Construction is perpetually among the most dangerous industries. In a review of OSHA fatality reports from 2017-20, these cities were the safest for construction workers (deaths per 1,000 laborers):

  1. Seattle (0.057)
  2. Boston (0.069)
  3. Buffalo, New York (0.268)
  4. Pittsburgh (0.497)
  5. Los Angeles (0.501)

Weather

Sunny weather doesn’t just make the jobsite more comfortable, it allows construction businesses to complete projects faster and can reduce the likelihood of weather-related delays and disputes. Unsurprisingly, cities in western states rose to the top in this category (days of sunshine):

  1. Phoenix (301)
  2. Las Vegas (294)
  3. Los Angeles (284)
  4. Sacramento, California (269)
  5. San Diego (266)

Lien security

Every state has mechanics lien laws that give contractors and suppliers protection against non-payment, but these laws vary greatly in their power and complexity. Weak legislation erodes construction business rights, and complicated requirements can dissuade construction businesses from protecting their payments. Here are the five cities with the strongest mechanics lien protection:

  1. Salt Lake City
  2. Phoenix
  3. Las Vegas
  4. Los Angeles
  5. Sacramento, California

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What ‘business ghosting’ says about your leadership, and why real leaders don’t ghost

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Working alone at home and no longer able to travel or socialize in groups has resulted in more people feeling alienated, isolated, and disconnected. But life must go on, work must continue, and people must get up every day and take care of their lives. While there are people who relish their solitary time and welcome the lack of interaction, this is hard for most people including me.

Most of us thrive in community, contribute fully and are more creative in collaborative settings. We like to feel part of something greater than ourselves.

One would think that during this time of COVID 19, work from home (if you still have a job), and unbelievably high unemployment that people who have the title of “leader” would make an extra effort to be kind and caring to their employees and other people with whom they come in contact.

While I’ve seen some amazing leaders who practice that kindness, caring and respect for others, there is another group of people who have the title of leader but whose actions are just the opposite. For them, they practice what I call “business ghosting.”

Ghosting is a common term in the dating world, where one person abruptly stops all form of communication without any explanation with someone they’ve been dating or interacting with regularly online. The person being ghosted is never told what happened. The “ghoster” just disappears.

It’s unfortunate that at this time when so many people are seeking, jobs, contracts, or new business connections there are those leaders that are not only not stepping up but are abdicating any responsibility for their words or actions.

Here are three examples:

1. Jerome, a network architect, was laid off for four months due to the pandemic. After following up on many referrals, submitting dozens of resumes, he finally got an interview. It went well and he had two more interviews with different leaders in the organization. During the third interview he heard words like, “when you work with us,” “how soon can you start,” “this is what you’ll need.” The last words he heard were, “We’ll call you next week to discuss arrangements.” He was ecstatic.

The week passed and he heard nothing. Two weeks passed and nothing. No one responded to his calls, emails or texts. He was ghosted. For whatever reason, no one had the consideration, respect or professional courtesy to let him know they had made another choice or just decided to leave the position open.

2. Sheryl owns a small business that provides sauces to the restaurant industry. She was excited when she got a call from a regional chain requesting a meeting to talk about placing an order. The general manager had tasted one of Sheryl’s sauces and said she was ready to buy. After negotiating, they agreed on a price and time of delivery. They just needed to sign the contract.

This was Sheryl’s biggest sale. She began to prepare to increase production. However, the general manager stopped taking her calls, emails, text. Like Jerome, Sheryl was ghosted. She was devastated.

3. Brianna is a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant. Three months ago, she was contacted by the VP of HR of a large nonprofit who said she needed a proposal within two days for a training the following Friday. The VP of HR confirmed that they were not considering any other consultants and that Brianna was the one. They agreed on the budgetand discussed logistics for the virtual program.

Brianna rearranged her schedule to deliver training. She spent several hours on the proposal which she submitted the following day. The VP of HR sent an email that they would finalize arrangements on Monday. Monday came, no call. Brianna tried all week to reach someone to no avail. Even after the expected date, Brianna continued to try to make contact. Nothing.

Finally, three months later she got a terse letter, “I was told to contact you. We decided not to do the training.” Like Sheryl and Jerome, Brianna was ghosted.

I asked Susan RoAne, internationally known author, speaker and leader on networking, business communication and protocol for her thoughts on leaders who ghost.

She said, “This behavior is not new. We’re just talking about it more. It’s despicable. When a so-called leader in an organization does this, they are saying they have no values, nor do they value other people’s time. The cornerstone of how we live our lives is respect and when people ghost they are showing their disrespect. All it takes is a simple phone call or even an email that they went with someone else, or they put the position on hold.”

Susan offered the following thoughts to leaders who ghost, “Stop going to leadership programs because you’re hopeless. Don’t think of yourself as someone of character if you don’t have the character to make a hard call.”

If you are a leader, then show that you care about your word, your work and other people. Think about the damage and impact you have on that job seeker, supplier or consultant. When you don’t respond because you don’t want to be uncomfortable, you’re keeping the job seeker from immediately looking for something else, that supplier from contacting another company or preventing that consultant from filling their schedule with another project.

In addition, people talk to other people in their business and to your potential customers. Do you want to be known for ghosting and mistreating others? Can you and your business afford that? The next great candidate may pass you by because they choose to work in an organization known for caring, empathy and respect.

It is hard to tell someone no, after saying yes, but it’s much worse to say nothing. Be a leader, think about the impact your actions have on others, and say no to cowardice. That’s good business.

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Outlook for remodeling industry in 2021 still fuzzy

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As previous indicators predicted, demand for professional remodeling services rebounded in the third quarter of the year. After experiencing negative growth in the first half of the year, the industry is now poised to end the year in the black with a modest increase in growth over last year.

Whether it can sustain that positive growth next year, however, is at present uncertain. Remodelers are optimistic but are facing headwinds that could cause demand to slow.

Robust home sales and homeowners’ desire to undertake renovations in order to improve their quality of life while confined to their homes has fueled a surge in home remodeling projects. A survey of homeowners who purchased a home within the last year, conducted by the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI), found that 83% had engaged in home improvement activities during that first year, compared with 70% when the survey was conducted in 2018. Among these homeowners, the most frequently undertaken project was a kitchen renovation (35%).

That boost in activity helped push big-ticket remodeling spending up 9% year-over-year in the third quarter, according to the recently-released Residential Remodeling Index (RRI) from MetroStudy/Zonda. By year’s end, MetroStudy/Zonda forecasts, the number of big-ticket projects (with a value of $1,000 or more) nationally will increase by more than 8% over 2019. In the metro areas that it tracks, it anticipates an average growth rate of 5.7% this year.

Following the same trend, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) reported that its Kitchen & Bath Market Index (KBMI) ascended into positive territory for the first time this year in the third quarter, posting a reading of 61.9, up from the low 40s in the first two quarters. Members who participated in the survey rated third-quarter business conditions at a solid 56.5 and anticipated demand would improve in the fourth quarter.

Combined, business for all categories was up nearly 6% from the previous quarter and more than 2% compared to the year before. Nearly two-third of respondents said they experienced more business in the third quarter than in the previous one. Business was strongest for product manufacturers and sellers. Designers’ level of business varied but on the whole was up 3.2% from the second quarter. NKBA anticipates year-over-year annual sales growth of around 1% for 2020 among its members’ businesses.

In releasing the KBMI third quarter results, NKBA spokespersons expressed optimism that 2021 will be a good year for its members, observing that homeowners had focused on other areas of the home during the summer months, especially the outdoors, and thus would be ready to undertake more kitchen and bath renovations in the year ahead. Among professionals who have not seen a return to normal business this year, nearly a third said they expect business would return to more normal levels next year.

Kitchen and bath remodels continue to rank high among all investments in home improvements. In a recent homeowner survey conducted by blinds and shades retailer Stoneside, more than a fourth of respondents (27.7%) said that a kitchen repair or remodel was one of the top projects they plan to do in the coming year, with one-fifth (20.7%) saying it was their top priority. Nearly a fourth (24.3%) listed a bedroom repair or remodel as top project.

Still, remodelers are facing some challenges under current business conditions, notes the NKBA, such as disruptions in supply chains and product deliveries, shortage of skilled labor, and reduced budgets. In addition, MetroStudy/Zonda projects moderation in remodeling growth for 2021 due to expectations of a slow employment recovery, a still-fragile economy, and the unknown status of further government stimulus. Other variables include whether home sales will begin to taper off and whether, with the availability of a vaccine, homeowners will resume travel and other activities that will reduce the funds they have to spend on home improvements.

Based on its model, MetroStudy/Zonda believes the current growth streak in professional remodeling services will come to an end in the fourth quarter and that 2021 will see quarterly decreases in growth, with a year-over-year decrease beginning in the third quarter. It projects a 0.4% gain for all of 2021. However, as this year has shown, that picture could change quickly if conditions recover faster than anticipated.

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Survey: Firms fight to operate during COVID-19

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The breadth and depth of the pandemic’s effects on private businesses has surfaced in new government data collected from July 20 through Sept. 30, 2020. In these numbers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conveys how businesses big and small operated.

Spoiler alert: the BLS data on employment, wages, job openings and terminations, employer-provided benefits, and safety and health paints a tough picture of firms fighting to stay afloat. Nationally, 52% of surveyed businesses, or 4.4 million, told their workers to avoid work (paid or not) for some time.

“Among establishments that told employees not to work, 51% (employing 43.5 million workers) continued to pay some or all of their employees while they were not working,” according to the BLS. “Among establishments that told employees not to work, 42% paid a portion of health insurance premiums for some or all of their employees while they were not working.” That leaves 58% of workers without such help.

Turning to business experiences and payroll choices, the lack of effective consumer demand is hurting firms. According to the BLS, 56% of companies, or 4.7 million, saw a fall in buyers’ demand for their goods or services. Meanwhile, 19% of businesses, or 1.6 million, closed under local or state mandates. Nearly 72 million employees worked at an enterprise dealing with weakened consumer demand, while 26 million were on the payroll at businesses experiencing a government-ordered closure.

Working at home has become an option for businesses during the pandemic, with 31% of firms employing 68.6 million workers and offered telework. Meanwhile, 52% of private businesses employing 46.6 million workers opted out of the telework approach.

By industries, education (60%), finance and insurance (58%), and management of companies and enterprises (54%) offered their employees telework. By contrast, industries rejecting the telework option were lodging and food services (91%), agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting (86%) and retail trade (75%).

The BLS data on firms that got a coronavirus-related loan or grant tied to rehiring or keeping workers on the payroll is revealing. Almost two-thirds, or 62% of private businesses, took a pandemic-related loan or grant linked to rehiring or maintaining their workers on the payroll. These recipient companies employed 74.2 million workers, or 59%, of total U.S. private-sector employment.

By industry comparisons, air transport (76%), lodging and food services (71%), and mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction (70%) topped the list of employment sectors with decreased buyer demand, according to the BLS. Industries with the biggest percentage of increased demand for their goods and services were retail trade (27%), social assistance (23%), and wholesale trade (15%).

Comparisons by company size between large (500 or more workers) and small (less than 500 employees) showed that both sizes experienced closures from government-mandates at a comparable rate (17% and 19%, respectively). Large firms by a rate of 67% informed employees to halt work versus 52% of small companies.

The BLS survey wraps up with state comparisons: “Six states and Puerto Rico had a percentage of establishments that experienced a government-mandated closure that was substantially higher than the national rate of 19% (one in five): Puerto Rico (50%), Michigan (32%), Pennsylvania (30%), Washington (27%), Vermont (26%), Hawaii (26%), and New York (26%). Six states had a percentage of establishments that experienced a government-mandated closure of 10% or less: South Dakota (6%), Arkansas (8%), North Dakota (9%), Utah (9%), Wyoming (9%) and Nebraska (10%).

The divide between blue and red states experiencing government-ordered business closures is clear. How Congress will use the new BLS survey on firms’ fight to stay afloat during the pandemic to construct a new aid package is unclear.

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Keep your distance, but maintain personal relationships

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Just when it looked like remote working had hit its peak, employers are again facing the possibility of workplace closures as cases of the coronavirus surge throughout the country.

Many businesses, though, including interior design, depend on teamwork and close personal interaction with customers for their success. While health and safety have to be a priority, they also need to have a strategy and protocols for meeting in person.

Many design firms were quick to switch to remote working last spring when stay-at-home restrictions caused offices to close. When restrictions were lifted, many continued to allow employees to work remotely, either from choice or necessity, such as health risks or caregiving responsibilities. Over time, though, principals and managers have come to realize that while much of their business can be performed remotely, not all of it can be, or at least not wholly satisfactorily.

In speaking with the design businesses we work with in my firm, we have seen a gradual return to including some in-person contact, to the extent that good health and safety practices allow. Because design is a collaborative activity and close client management is critical to the success of a project, some firms have been requesting employees to perform some duties that involve meeting in person with others, such as making site visits, checking in or consulting with clients, or accompanying clients on shopping or showroom trips. For the most part, this arrangement so far has been working well for both firms and clients.

For their part, many employees have found working remotely to be something of a challenge. They may not have a suitable space or environment to work comfortably from home. Some feel isolated and miss interacting with their colleagues.

According to a recent Gallup survey, the proportion of employees always working from home declined from 51% in April to 33% in September. More than half of employees said they were not concerned about exposure to COVID-19 at work because employers had taken the necessary measures to ensure their safety. About a third of those still working remotely said they would like to return to their workplace, if conditions allowed. So, employers need not feel they are asking too much of their employees to require them, at least occasionally, to spend time in the office or on a project site.

Some employees have resisted meeting with others or returning to an office setting, often with good reason. But by and large most have accepted limited contact as a necessary risk of doing business. Fortunately, computer-aided design, wireless telecommunications, and cloud-based collaborative work platforms make it possible for most tasks to be performed and shared remotely, thereby significantly decreasing the need for in-person contact.

It likely will be some time before offices can return to functioning normally. A number of firms have extended remote working options until the second quarter of next year, while others are operating on a hybrid model of partial remote working and partial in-office and/or limited in-person contact with clients, subcontractors, showrooms, etc.

Each model presents challenges for employees, so it’s important to allow some flexibility, depending on their circumstances, without burdening some employees at the expense of others. They may have legitimate concerns, such as health risks or caregiving responsibilities.

Whatever approach you take, it’s important to communicate policies and decisions to all staff so that everyone understands what is expected of them and how each member of the team is contributing to the success of the firm. From what I am seeing, more design firms than not are working in their office and in person with clients.

Both designers and clients seem to be comfortable with it, so I suggest that if you are not sure what to do, try out a hybrid approach and see how it works for your firm. Maintaining those personal relationships is key to any project’s success and to laying the groundwork for future business.

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Real estate goes virtual with contactless viewings, signings, and property management

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Purchasing a home or renting an apartment can be a cumbersome process, exacerbated — and made less safe — by COVID-19. In-person showings and signings are difficult, if not impossible, to manage while maintaining social distancing guidelines. Syncing various schedules can also be a headache, especially for buyers and tenants with kids and inflexible jobs. And what about those last-minute questions that tend to pop up at 2 a.m.?

However, some real estate and property management companies are making the homebuying, rental, and property management process a lot easier — and reducing the probability of contracting COVID-19 — through the use of a variety of virtual solutions.

Mynd Property Management

Mynd Property Management is headquartered in Oakland, California, and has numerous locations throughout the country. “Self-showings are an important part of our process; however, fraud is a big problem,” says Colin Wiel, co-founder and chairman. “When setting up self-showing visits, we perform identity verification using facial recognition software to compare a ‘selfie’ they take of themselves to their driver’s license picture.”

In addition to fraudulent prospects, another concern is wasting time with curious viewers who may have no intention of renting the property — or may not meet the rental requirements. “We also use a machine-learning algorithm to identify the most promising prospects by looking at factors such as through what source they came to us,” Wiel says. “We also look at which of the optional fields they filled out when they submitted their inquiry, and what time of day they submitted the inquiry.”

Felix Homes

“We’re a technology company first and a real estate brokerage second,” explains Tyler Forte, co-founder and CEO at Felix Homes, which is based in Franklin, Tennessee, and services clients throughout Middle Tennessee. The company uses virtual leasing agents that allow buyers to view homes from the comfort of their home. “They can view pictures, see detailed information and request an in-person or virtual tour of any apartment.”

And if someone wants to make an offer, Forte says they can complete all of the paperwork electronically without having to step foot in a sales office. “We implemented this technology at the beginning of the year and have seen a lot of interest specifically from out-of-state clients,” he explains. “Our platform allows these individuals to learn about particular neighborhoods as well as the amenities offered by a particular apartment complex.”

Onerent

Onerent is located in San Jose, California, and manages properties in seven major metros in California, Colorado, and Washington, making it the largest single-family property management company on the West Coast. Onerent’s virtual assistant, Ace, provides a competitive edge by handling both rentals and property management.

“Ace from Onerent provides a contactless rental experience for homeowners and renters through our 3D virtual tours, free online application, and AI-driven chatbot,” explains Ray Wei, director of marketing.” Using the company’s personal rental concierge, renters can find and apply for a rental home while avoiding human contact.

“For homeowners, having Ace handle your leasing and management inquiries can reduce response times through automated messaging.” Wei explains that this provides a better experience for the renter (who is not sitting around waiting for a reply), and takes the burden off of the homeowner’s shoulder.

“With the challenges of lockdown orders and health concerns, Onerent’s Ace platform allows us to scan a new rental property and turn it into a 3D digital twin,” Wei says. “We extract high-quality listing photos and convert the scans into detailed floor plans.” Potential renters can view images, floorplans, and 3D virtual tours at their convenience.

“Immersive virtual tours allow renters to visit a large volume of properties in a short period,” he says. “Renters can take their time virtually walking around the home at their own leisure or with a spouse or roommate.”

Going virtual definitely provides an advantage when courting younger clients. “Almost half (48%) of prospective renters are aged 18 to 34 and these are millennial and Gen Z renters who may prefer a digital experience when renting.” Ace also helps the company maximize property exposure for homeowners. “Virtual tours make rental properties more competitive in their neighborhood and they make the rental property unique, which results in more inquiries and lower vacancies for the homeowner.”

And Ace goes a step further, even automating maintenance for renters and homeowners. “Ace simplifies maintenance tickets for renters by providing detailed 3D mapping of maintenance walkthroughs,” Wei explains. Ace also provides troubleshooting tips that the renter can try before creating a maintenance ticket. Yet another advantage: Ace conducts move-out inspections.

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Untethered affluents fueling booming home sales

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Back in the spring when the housing market plummeted practically overnight, no one expected that homes would be flying off the shelf in September. Although the boom in home sales that began last May has slowed in recent months, demand still far exceeds supply, with the majority of homes last month selling in less than 30 days.

For the most part, those homes are being bought by affluent homeowners who, no longer bound to their office commutes and urban lifestyles, are snapping up single-family suburban homes, vacation homes and luxury homes.

After easing off in August following red-hot activity in June and July, purchases of existing homes bounced back in September, rising 9.4%, for an annual increase of nearly 21%. Sales of single-family homes were up 9.7% for the month and nearly 22% year over year.

Historically low levels of homes for sale, down more than 19% from a year ago, combined with low mortgage rates and unusual demand at this time of year, have accelerated the buying process and caused prices to continue rising. More than 7 in 10 existing homes sold were on the market for less than 30 days, often only for several weeks, the fastest pace since 2006. The median price of all homes sold ($311,800) and of a single-family home ($316,200) was up only about $1,000 from August but was 15% higher than the same time last year.

The third quarter has been particularly good for vacation and luxury home sales. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said sales in vacation destination counties were up 34% year over year in September. “The uncertainty about when the pandemic will end coupled with the ability to work from home appears to have boosted sales in summer resort regions,” noted NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. Online real estate broker Redfin reported that luxury homes sales skyrocketed 41.5% in the period, at a median price of $862,700, with many buyers moving from large metro areas to more livable second-tier cities and suburbs where prices are cheaper and space is more ample.

Redfin found a similar pattern in its monthly report of home buying activity in the 87 metro areas that it tracks. Buyers are moving out of large cities like San Francisco and New York to nearby areas such as Tacoma and Portland on the west coast and Rochester and Buffalo on the east coast. The report states, “As companies continue to loosen their work-from-home policies, people are leaving expensive cities to work remotely from places with more affordable housing markets.”

Sales of new homes, which were robust in May, June and July then tapered off in August, dipped in September, down 3.5% from the previous month, but are up nearly 17% for the year and more than 32% higher than in September 2019. Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), attributed the decline to a gap between sales and the pace of construction that reached an all-time high in August.

However, completions jumped 15.3% in September, which should help to alleviate some of the shortage of available inventory. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) stated that demand for newly built homes remains strong, with mortgage applications up more than 38% from a year ago.

Given that current conditions are not expected to change for the foreseeable future, experts anticipate that home sales will remain strong for the rest of this year and into the early part of next year. After that, once a vaccine is widely available, some of these trends could reverse. Meanwhile, the inequality in home ownership, which was already substantial before the onset of the pandemic, is getting worse. In the midst of a recovering economy, that could put a drag on the market for much of 2021.

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Key safety tips for real estate pros returning to the office during COVID-19

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The real estate industry has embraced remote work so efficiently that a return to the office may only be necessary for socializing, and that too can be accomplished to some degree using remote tools. The health of staff and clients is paramount for the real estate industry. Here are some key safety tips for real estate professionals who may be returning to the office.

Schedules

Though many real estate professionals, from attorneys to salespeople, determine their own schedules, it will be important to provide specific times that staff members can be in office to maintain social distancing and sanitizing schedules.

Consider dividing the workforce into A and B groups. For instance, the A group may work Monday/Wednesday/Friday during week one and Tuesday/Thursday during week two. Group B would work an opposite schedule. This approach allows for easier contact tracing should a case of COVID-19 occur. To encourage staff to feel comfortable in the office environment and confident in their ability to remain healthy, discussions should be had well before an actual return to office occurs.

According to Modest Money, “Schedule routine cleaning maintenance often and make sure all-encompassing disinfection is carried out. Any surfaces that are touched frequently, like doorknobs, office machinery, vending machines or small appliances in the breakroom should be sanitized after each use. Invest in spray sanitizers and place them in readily accessible locations with polite signs asking everyone to … Please spritz after using this area.”

Schedule ample time for cleaning staff to disinfect office equipment, restrooms, and frequently touched areas.

Moving

Moving is not a new concept for people in the real estate business. In this instance we are talking about rearranging office furnishings. Move desks and chairs as far away from each other as is physically possible. If there is not a great deal of distance between desks, reconsider their placement and perhaps create a back-to-back pattern to lessen the amount of shared air.

Install plexiglass dividers between workspaces so light still flows between areas but contaminates do not. In reception areas plexiglass dividers are very important to install; otherwise, consider banning visitors to the office for the duration of COVID-19.

Personal Protective Equipment

Everyone now knows that masks help protect the spread of the virus. Masks not only help us stay safer but recently have become fashion statements, well, OK, maybe just a little bit! Take mask wearing to the next level and have some printed with your company’s logo and make them available to everyone in the office.

Print out the CDC guidelines that explain how to properly wear a mask and post this information at the entrance to your offices and anywhere you would normally place legal notices. Additionally, it would prove useful for the health of all people working in the office to have disposable gloves available to use for frequently touched items, like copy machines. Face shields are inexpensive and can be custom printed on the edges, but a face shield does not take the place of a mask and should always be used in conjunction with a mask.

Air Quality

The control you have over the quality of the air in your office may be determined by the type of building you work in. A freestanding small office may have windows that can be opened and an HVAC system you can control.

A large office tower that is shared by many companies may not have the luxury of total atmospheric control. Find out from building management what is being done to purify the air and increase ventilation. If access to your offices requires an elevator ride you may want to find out if there are any protocols in place to reduce transmission in small spaces. A tabletop fan can help circulate air away from you when sitting at a desk and small air purifiers are available for your personal space at the office.

Just-In-Case Protocols

While most people take ample precautions, you must have protocols in place to protect office staff. Daily screenings and temperatures can alert you to possibly infectious persons; unfortunately, transmission can occur when a person is asymptomatic, meaning they have no visible sign of infection.

Be aware of unusual coughs in your fellow workers and if someone looks feverish do not delay sending that person out of the office immediately. If someone who has been working in your office tests positive, consider yourself exposed and take precautions for yourself and family members.

Testing has become more routinely available in most counties. A positive test among office staff will necessitate closing of the office for a period and professional cleaning and sanitizing should be done before anyone reenters the office.

Notify other tenants, building management and your local health department for guidelines to reopen. Health officials will want to do contact tracing to minimize further spread and recognize those that are at risk. For more information check the CDC guidelines for protocol when someone in the office has COVID-19. To avoid this type of situation, make sure all staff in your office know they are not to come to work if they feel ill.

People are already balancing work, home, commitments to elderly family members and errands, some with more anxiety than others. It is important to provide as safe an environment as possible for those who work in a shared space. Real estate companies are poised to provide their employees with the maximum amount of efficiency whether working from a home or in the company office. With flexibility and thoughtfulness, you will be able to weather this difficult time.

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How construction can contribute to a recovering economy

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The construction industry plays a vital role in the economy. At the start of the lockdowns earlier this year in view of the spread of COVID-19, the percentage of construction workers terminated workers because of the pandemic rose significantly over a short period of time, according to a survey conducted onlineby the Associated General Contractors of America.

After the World Health Organization announced in March that the coronavirus outbreak had become a pandemic, many countries declared national lockdowns. This restricted the movement of people and resulted in a complete shutdown of many businesses. Construction companies were not left out of the restrictions.

Effects of the Pandemic on the Construction Industry

According to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), published in September, 60% of firms reported future projects had been delayed or outrightly canceled since the beginning of the pandemic. The results of the survey show that project delays have begun to affect contractors. Also, there was a marked shortage of labor, as 52% of firms struggle to find craft workers. The unwillingness to work is because many workers fear the possibility of being infected by the coronavirus.

Following the unexpected occurrence of the virus, construction workers in developing countries who are likely to be without insurance that cover unemployment or any other protection against loss of income were left stranded.

The effects of the confinement on construction have been felt in different aspects of the industry, including economic and human resources. Aside from job loss and suspension of projects, time and cost overruns and unfavorable financial implications have also been experienced.

During a panel discussion on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction survey collected in April, the lobbying group’s senior economist, Curtis Dubay, expressed his thoughts:

“We underwent a severe contraction in the economy in late March and into May, but now we’re starting to see a rebound of the data and the economy’s getting slightly better, but we’re not anywhere near where we were before the pandemic hit and the Commercial Construction Index reflects that.”

The construction industry could be a means for the economy to recover after the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, as history has shown that construction was relied upon in the past to help improve the economy. The federal government usually drove the upswing by increasing investments in building and infrastructure, which ultimately resulted in decreased spending in other sectors. Construction will also indirectly benefit local businesses when they supply food, shelter, raw materials, transport and other services to workers for the duration of the projects.

How to Kick-Start the Economy Through the Construction Industry

To kick-start the economy and employment, sound government principles and pledges are required. Some of these policies may include:

1. Attending to projects that were not completed before the lockdown

Investments can be made in unfinished infrastructural projects. These backlog projects stand a better chance because they can quickly be approved. Usually, they are more labor intensive and are a means of temporary job creation.

2. Application of international labor standards

The International Labour Organization has policies that are widely accepted and known to be able to enforce recovery projects, as well as protect informal workers.

3. Cutting budgets and maximizing profit on small capital funds

The major worry in this present situation is the unpredictability of the economy. Contractors are conversant with risks, but no one envisaged the pandemic or is familiar with dealing with the blowback of one as extensive as this.

The recurring question is what markets will look like in early to mid-2021. Getting into partnership with clients and reducing the budget for work done is an option contractors can tend towards.

4. Adapting to new technologies and skill acquisition

It is no news that some changes have been made in technology usage in the construction industry. Remarkably, these changes allow the increasing use of environmentally friendly technologies. There is a need for workers to be skillfully trained for initiative in order to adapt to these changes. Flexibility in knowledge and application is advised if construction workers plan to achieve a lot.

Conclusively, according to Khan (2005), the construction sector and construction activities are known to be some of the major sources of economic growth and development. Therefore, this sector should be taken into serious consideration when the improvement of the economy is discussed.

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