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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

REALTORS EXPAND USE OF TECHNOLOGY -- PART 12

CONTINUE CUSTOMIZED CLIENT SERVICE IN THE TIME OF COVID
NC REALTORS, the statewide association in North Carolina, has an online platform that supports “Selling Homes from Home.” 

The resources, gathered from numerous sources including the National Association of REALTORS, discusses topics such as virtual showings and how to host virtual meetings. 

“Throughout the state, real estate has been both designated as and as not an essential business activity through local governments’ stay-at-home orders. This has resulted in a significant amount of disparity in how REALTORS are able to conduct business in different areas of North Carolina,” said Seth Palmer NCR’s Director of Regulatory Affairs and External Communications.

“In support of those who are able to conduct business in their area, we have created a Best Practices guide for members with important information about how to conduct any activities in compliance with health and safety guidelines.”  

Monday, June 29, 2020

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

THROUGH THE EYES OF THE WORLD


In a time of dread, fear, brutality and oppression -- in these United States of America -- an image of hope. 

Four wonderful, joyful young people in Egypt.

I took this in the back streets of one of Cairo's poorest neighborhoods.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Perils For Pedestrians 138: The ADA and Sidewalks



Perils For Pedestrians 138: The ADA and Sidewalks https://youtu.be/ksqfGz6Y0v0 via @YouTube
#CripTheVote
#ADA30
#ThankstotheADA
#BecauseOfTheADA
#disabledlivesmatter
#nothingaboutuswithoutus
#wematter
#socialjustice
#Socialequity
#universaldesign
#inclusion

THE LANDMARK 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT IS LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY

EVERY MAJOR NEWSPAPER AND BROADCAST NEWS OUTLET IN AMERICA
BETTER BE PREPARING A HUGE AMOUNT OF COVERAGE OF THIS MAJOR EVENT
The Americans with Disabilities Act turns 30 on July 26 and every form of media in America should be preparing in-depth stories about the landmark legislation for publication on the anniversary date.

As people protest injustice and inequity in countless cities in America, people with disabilities must also be brought into the discussion and brought to the table.

The ADA and its impact, against the backdrop of a pandemic, is an incredibly timely story.

Countless people of all ages have died of COVID in nursing homes and similar facilities. 

There is no arguing that this is wrong, as every city in the U.S. has experienced a horror story of death, injury, abuse and worse in nursing homes.

And that was before Coronavirus and the obscenely high percentage of deaths due to unsanitary and unsafe conditions created by nursing homes that prize profit over human life. 

The virus has underscored the fatal consequences of enriching the nursing home profiteers vs. spending on personal care attendants and other ways of keeping disabled and elderly people in their own homes.

I hope, for the sake of diversity, fair play and shining a light on darkness – that all news executives have already assigned major series marking the landmark ADA’s 30th anniversary.

If not, they are shirking the most sacred duty of the fourth estate: to give a voice to all.




Saturday, June 27, 2020

REALTORS EXPAND USE OF TECHNOLOGY -- PART 10

CONTINUE CUSTOMIZED CLIENT SERVICE IN THE TIME OF COVID
Doerlich said the channels are now virtual versus in-person but it still is vital for him as a broker to keep in contact to encourage and mentor agents for continued engagement and returning to full productivity.

“On-line messaging and social media access were `nice-to-haves’ – now it’s essential to maintain continuity, communication and camaraderie among the agents and staff,” he said.

“We have started a weekly web conference with all the agents in our offices. It keeps the team in synch and is encouraging to hear the activity of our agents. 

We can also answer questions about new protocols and maintain the enthusiasm in a difficult market time,” Doerlich added.

Friday, June 26, 2020

REALTORS EXPAND USE OF TECHNOLOGY -- PART 9

CONTINUE CUSTOMIZED CLIENT SERVICE IN THE TIME OF COVID
Will Doerlich is Broker/CEO of Pleasanton CA-based Realty One Group in the eastern San Francisco Bay Tri-Valley area.

“As REALTORS, we need to support the efforts to contain and maintain the health of our communities – the economic as well as the physical and mental health of our communities. Each of these are intertwined together,” he said.

“And right now, a healthy community will be a strong economic community sooner when the market is fully opened and available to our clients.”

Thursday, June 25, 2020

REALTORS EXPAND USE OF TECHNOLOGY -- PART 8

CONTINUE CUSTOMIZED CLIENT SERVICE IN THE TIME OF COVID

“What’s about to happen to Houston real estate reminds me of Hurricane Harvey in that we are bracing for impact, but don’t yet know what the full extent on the market will be,” said HAR Chairman John Nugent with RE/MAX Space Center. 

“There are consumers out there for whom finding a home is critical, however, HAR has urged all Realtor members to conduct as much business as possible online, using technology such as virtual open houses, virtual tours and electronic signature documents, in the interest of protecting everyone’s health.”

On March 20, all in-person open houses were removed from HAR.com out of an abundance of caution. 

The website introduced a virtual tour feature allowing REALTORS to host and post virtual open houses and conduct virtual showings. 

Consumers can watch them live on HAR.com at scheduled times and REALTORS can then share the recordings on their own websites and social media platforms.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

REALTORS EXPAND USE OF TECHNOLOGY -- PART 7

CONTINUE CUSTOMIZED CLIENT SERVICE IN THE TIME OF COVID
The Houston Association of REALTORS (HAR) has member coronavirus FAQs on its website and has published columns that address business in the pandemic era. 

With more consumers home-bound, there has been a surge in traffic to its award-winning HAR.com website.

HAR is waiving Q3 MLS fees for both residential and commercial subscribers, which represents a savings of more than $5 million.

It’s an innovative strategy that proves REALTORS are committed to rebuilding the nation’s economy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

REALTORS EXPAND USE OF TECHNOLOGY -- PART 6

CONTINUE CUSTOMIZED CLIENT SERVICE IN THE TIME OF COVID
Rosshirt said prolonged work from home will show the weakness or benefits of current living arrangements.

“Flex space may be less desirable than a dedicated work area. Internet reliability, capacity and speed will be critical for some jobs. Areas with Google fiber may earn a premium,” he observed.

If two people are working at home, a shared work space may not be practical,” Rosshirt added.

“One couple I just closed with on a new house have been both forced to work at home. Her counseling work is transferring to the internet well enough, but she must maintain privacy in her work.

His work is high tech and he has been capable or working at home for a long time but now it is full-time and it can be loud (gaming). So, the floor plan they chose provided two workspaces very separate from the other.”

Monday, June 22, 2020

REALTORS EXPAND USE OF TECHNOLOGY -- PART 5

CONTINUE CUSTOMIZED CLIENT SERVICE IN THE TIME OF COVID

Ohio REALTORS has created a coronavirus resources page on its website, providing members with important links and top headlines from lawmakers, agencies and related groups in Ohio and across the nation.

Its best practices include conducting virtual meetings with its local boards and associations, as well as with elected Realtor leadership -- since the onset of the pandemic.

Rosshirt said with so many people working remotely, there likely will be a permanent change to facilitating virtual work in home design.

“A company may realize they do not need expensive real estate if their employees can be effective remotely,” he said.

Developers are already moving to multi-use plans where the office component is matched with nearby appropriate living and retail/entertainment.”

Sunday, June 21, 2020

HOW CAN SITES IN ANCIENT EGYPT

PROVIDE BETTER WHEELCHAIR ACCESS THAN
21ST CENTURY DESIGN IN THE U.S.?
The image is of the walkway leading to the ancient step pyramid in Saqqara, south of Cairo.

Barrier-free, wide, smooth causeway over the sand to the ancient Pyramid of Djoser. 

The site has far superior wheelchair access -- in ancient Egypt -- than the broken, narrow, viciously-sloping sidewalks that torture people with disabilities in most U.S. cities. 

Shame on designers in the U.S. for continuing to create barriers and brand-new construction.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

REALTORS EXPAND USE OF TECHNOLOGY -- PART 4

CONTINUE CUSTOMIZED CLIENT SERVICE IN THE TIME OF COVID
Ohio was one of the first states to adopt remote notarization three years ago.

The legislation requires notaries to obtain a separate certification, but the opportunity to process documents and finalize deals exists. 

Closings in the Buckeye State are now occurring with only one party present to ensure social distancing compliance.

“Ohio’s Realtor community has dramatically changed its individual and collective business practices – using proper social distancing protocols, tapping into technology to conduct virtual showings and remote meetings with customers,” said Chief Executive Officer Scott Williams. 

“Throughout, we’ve stressed to our membership that, while Ohio deemed real estate as an essential service, this is not a time for business as usual. It’s imperative that the industry make necessary adjustments to find the proper balance of serving our clients while also protecting society’s greater good.”

Friday, June 19, 2020

REALTORS EXPAND USE OF TECHNOLOGY -- PART 3

CONTINUE CUSTOMIZED CLIENT SERVICE IN THE TIME OF COVID
Rosshirt sees the pandemic focusing some homebuyers on high-performance, healthier homes – noting a house with a tighter seal and better air exchange and filters may now be well worth the expense.

These are features of High-Performance homes that may be called Energy Efficient or Green by some builder.  

As homeowners respond to difficult times, their house serves as the: office/boardroom, classroom, coffee shop, movie theater, gym and safe sanctuary to shelter in place.
Ohio REALTORS, a statewide association, is conducting weekly surveys to track the market’s condition in an effort to provide insight to members. 

Equally important, Ohio REALTORS are sharing the data with Governor Mike DeWine’s administration (lauded for quick action to stop Corona spread), the Economic Recovery Task Force of the Ohio House and other key policy makers to be influential partners in identifying initiatives to stabilize the real estate sector during the pandemic.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

REALTORS EXPAND USE OF TECHNOLOGY -- PART 2

CONTINUE CUSTOMIZED CLIENT SERVICE IN THE TIME OF COVID
John Rosshirt, Associate Broker/Co-Owner of Stanberry REALTORS in Austin Texas, said more visuals are being added to many listings. He said agents are using high and low tech to add video.

“Some agents are just walking through their listing with a simple wordless video on their smart phone to have something extra to upload,” he said of low-tech solutions. “Photographers are adding 3D technology to their offerings to agents. 

Agents are using Zoom to stay in touch with their clients.

“I have set up special lighting and rearranged what is behind me so I make a professional impression. People who are isolated love this contact and I find they like to talk,” he said, reminding REALTORS that the personal touch is needed – even if it is virtual.

“Calls do seem to take longer because people have a need to talk about the new challenges in their life as well as the new challenges in achieving their real estate goals.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

REALTORS EXPAND USE OF TECHNOLOGY -- PART 1

CONTINUE CUSTOMIZED CLIENT SERVICE IN THE TIME OF COVID
The Corona Virus Pandemic is rapidly changing the way REALTORS conduct business. 

Virtual tours and app-based conferencing have played a major role while brokerages scramble to balance excellent client service with social distancing, stay at home orders and other elements of the new normal.

Perhaps the most profound lesson, in the view of leading residential and commercial REALTORS around the nation, is that COVID-driven changes will make lasting impressions on the industry – even after there is a vaccine, a drop in cases and a general return to life before the virus.

Virtually every top-producing pro contacted for this story believes virtual technology will play an even larger role – in a field already known for online video walkthroughs of houses and properties. 

Many feel remote work will greatly increase, changing the way firms large and small measure their need for formal office space.

Monday, June 15, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 27


Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way
Crozier cited Brookings Institution data that found more than a quarter of small businesses are at risk of immediate shutdown and over half are vulnerable to severe disruption or shutdown.

The data showed women entrepreneurs and small business owners of color are particularly at risk.

“This crisis shows us exactly how much we value our local, independent Main Street businesses,” she said. 

“Without added and expansive federal action to preserve our small business economy, Main Street will wither, and Wall Street will seize an even greater share of our economy.

We run the real risk of corporate consolidation and monopolies being the only ones able to survive a prolonged crisis. 

If we want to support the small businesses that invest in their local communities, and provide good jobs, rather than extract from them we need to protect the backbone of our economy."


Sunday, June 14, 2020

240,000 READERS OF THIS HUMBLE BLOG

THE BEST PART OF BLOGGING IS SHARING EXPERIENCES 
WITH NEW FRIENDS AROUND THE WORLD
To mark the milestone of more than 240,000 unique visitors to the blog, we share images from a 2020 business trip to Egypt.
These photos show Islamic Cairo and its back streets.
Islamic Cairo refers to an ancient area with buildings dating back to Medieval times.
Most of the Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz takes place in Islamic Cairo.
The late Mahfouz was the first writer in Arabic to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 26

Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way
“Small businesses have long been the backbone of our national economy and of Cherry Creek North,” said Nick LeMasters, CCN BID president and CEO.  

“With the largest concentration of independent business in the intermountain west, Cherry Creek North has long-served as an example of a unique, diverse and highly-personalized neighborhood experience.  

It is our highest priority to ensure that our community retains relevancy in this ever-changing market so when the time comes to welcome back those that visit, work and play in Cherry Creek North, we can do so as a strong and resilient neighborhood.”

Sarah Crozier, Senior Communications Manager at the Main Street Alliance, said Congress must create a policy response that is on par with the severity, scope and potential duration of the financial crisis that small businesses and their employees are facing.

“The current small business relief programs are too complex and underfunded. They are not delivering urgently needed aid fast enough,” she said.

Friday, June 12, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 25

Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way
The Cherry Creek North BID, the first BID created in the state of Colorado, represents a neighborhood five minutes north of downtown Denver that touts the largest and most diverse shopping space between Chicago and San Francisco.  

Out of the 260 retail and service businesses in CCN, 70 percent -- just more than 175 -- are small retail businesses.

“It is imperative that we provide accurate information about available grant and loan programs to our constituents. We have created a Slack portal and opened it to the entire business community,” said Jenny Starkey, Senior Director of Marketing & Community Relations for CCN BID.

The BID invited critical resource providers to the virtual platform to ensure businesses have direct communication with representatives from the Mayor’s office, City Council, the Denver Metro Economic Development Office, Denver Chamber, Cherry Creek Chamber, Small Business Administration and Denver Police.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 24


Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way
Smith said small, locally-owned businesses are finding very innovative ways to keep moving forward:
·        
      A hair salon in Alexandria, Virginia is delivering a small bottle of customer’ hair coloring solution, plus some shampoo and conditioner, to their homes, then following up with Zoom meetings to walk them through the process of touching up their roots.

·        A bar in San Antonio is offering drive-through cocktails and bottled beer and wine. With a $30 purchase, customers get a free hot dog from the hot dog stand next door and a free bottle of Stella Artois.

·        A personal chef and caterer in Metuchen, New Jersey now makes family-style meals serving four to six people and, when delivering them, offers to deliver products from other downtown businesses as well.

·        A professional photographer in Cincinnati is donating her services to other small businesses to take photos of their merchandise for their websites.


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 23

Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way
“It is vital is to level the playing field between small, locally owned businesses and big box stores. Main Street businesses are largely shuttered now and are conducting business in new and innovative ways to minimize person-to-person contact and to keep everyone safe,” Kennedy Smith said.

“But, because they sell groceries and pharmaceuticals, big box stores have continued to let people in -- and to let them in to all their departments. 

While Main Street bookstores, toy shops and clothing stores are scrambling to find innovative ways to continue serving their customers and to bring in revenue – big box stores freely let customers wander around and pick up electronics, clothing, books, toys, tires, housewares…while also buying groceries.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 22

Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way
“This means that you need to make restaurant take-out more than a commodity.  

It needs to offer an emotional reprieve from the isolation we're all experiencing,” he said.   Can you bring the meal to their car curbside in a unique way?  

Guests are looking for a human connection and a reason to smile.  You can do that while still delivering a predictable and consistent experience.”

Kennedy Smith is a Senior Researcher with the Independent Business Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a non-profit that champions the need for humanly-scaled institutions and economies. 

She said Congress, state and local governments, foundations, civic institutions, crowdfunders and customers must get cash to small, locally owned businesses to keep them afloat – because most have less than a month of cash reserves on hand.

Monday, June 8, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 21

Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way
Chad Emerson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Downtown Huntsville, Inc., said a quick lesson learned is that small businesses able to quickly evolve in crisis will do better.

“We've found that the restaurants that create the most predictable and consistent experience are the ones that are rewarded with return business,” he said.  “Are your online menus and hours of operation accurate? 

Do you answer phone and online orders in a timely way?  When a customer chooses you to spend their more scarce dining dollars…when you say you'll have it ready curbside, they don't need a James Beard-level meal -- they just need James Beard-level customer service.”

Emerson it is often easier and less expensive to have groceries delivered and to cook at home.  He said small businesses owners should challenge themselves and their teams to make the curbside delivery a simple yet fun experience. 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

HAPPY 32ND ANNIVERSARY

TO MY SOULMATE HEIDI
Our 32nd wedding anniversary is this Thursday.
We have been a couple for more than a third of a century.
Last year, we celebrated our belated 30th with two amazing weeks in Paris.
This year, certainly no travel – beyond maybe a weekend walk along Ocean Drive, safely with masks on and distancing practiced.
I could write a book, not this simple blog post, on all the great things I’ve discovered over the years with Heidi.
Travel has been a huge one.
She encouraged me to travel to Egypt this year.
I got home just before the virtually total shutdown due to the pandemic.
We also have discovered the joy of being cat parents in the past decade.
HoneyBear, our rescue Siamese, has been a huge part of our lives for years.
To combine our loves, I have posted pictures of cats – taken this March in Cairo – as a tribute to my beloved wife, Heidi Johnson-Wright.


Saturday, June 6, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 20

Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way
The International Downtown Association underscores the importance of partnerships with local government, which can ensure quick turnaround on temporary rule changes to allow more ease of conducting business during COVID restrictions. 

Downtown Santa Monica instituted a temporary change in parking ordinances around restaurants to allow for easier pickup.

BIDS from Milwaukee to West Palm Beach have created lists of dozens of virtual events and activities to do, many powered by the local community. 

Milwaukee Downtown is working with museums, performing arts centers and universities to stream performances and lectures to strengthen community ties online. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 19

Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way
“There is a glut of vacant shopping centers and office parks, and they need to be repurposed into dense, walkable mixed-use centers,” Gibbs said.

“As regional malls are closing, many of their prime retailers are seeking downtowns to remain in the market.  There are opportunities for cities to attract those prime retailers if they implement a business recruitment plan.”

The Central Square Business Improvement District in Cambridge, MA partnered with two other small business organizations to create Grassroots Relief for Main Streets, a statewide campaign for legislation to support small businesses, arts organizations and non-profits.

The BID quickly partnered with local restaurant owners to provide food for the social service providers within its boundaries.

In one week, Tracy Chang (James Beard award nominee) and her team at PAGU made 900 meals for the shelters in Central. 

Chang quickly helped launch Off Their Plate, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring restaurant jobs and feeding the frontlines. It raised $2 million in a month.


Thursday, June 4, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 18

Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way
Robert Gibbs is a professional planner, landscape architect, real estate advisor and author of Principles of Urban Retail Planning. 

Based in Birmingham Michigan, he has consulted on more than 1,000 projects spanning all 50 states, including retail evaluations of all design, planning, parking, signage, management and policy issues to improve the shopper experience and improve sales.

“DDAs are essential for competitive shopping districts, especially now.  Cities without DDAs will face a slower recovery than others,” he said of development authorities. 

“DDAs can offer marketing for restaurant carry-out, on-line shopping and especially their service businesses.

He said DDAs throughout the nation must prepare extensive post-recession/pandemic marketing plans to launch the moment things start to return to normal. 

To endure the crisis, Gibbs said landlords must offer free for several months and then reduce rents to 10 percent of gross sales. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 17

Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way

The Crystal City BID has organized drives, produced informational webinars and launched a “Hometown Heroes” initiative that rewards the efforts of helpful community members with gift cards to local small businesses.


“We are actively encouraging and empowering the community to support those local businesses that have remained open for carry-out and delivery. We set up a webpage that aggregates operational information so that area residents can easily access it,” Gabriel said. 

“We have also partnered with local government to designate nearly a dozen pick-up/delivery zones throughout the community to make it easier - and safer - for people to patronize these local establishments.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 16

Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way
Tracy Sayegh Gabriel is an urbanist, planner and place-maker who serves as President and Executive Director of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, which enhances the vibrancy of Arlington -- Virginia’s largest downtown.

“We are working with fitness studios and cultural institutions in the neighborhood to develop a line-up of BID-sponsored virtual programming,” she said.

“It is a lifeline for our small businesses that are struggling to make ends meet. These online events provide residents with new avenues to stay both mentally and physically healthy as they adjust to life spent predominantly at home. “

Monday, June 1, 2020

COMMERCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS -- Part 15

Main Streets, Business Improvement Districts and Downtowns Lead the Way
“Places with strong local economic ecosystems will endure and recover,” said Marohn, who often writes about the inequity of heavy incentives given to national chains with no local roots – by cities that do little to nothing to level the playing field for locally-owned businesses.

“The current crisis will also put a large strain on cities’ budgets, and this will be felt most acutely in those places whose finances were already stretched by decades of low-returning development choices and deferred maintenance of overbuilt infrastructure,” said Marohn, whose recent book rails against the unsustainability of sprawled growth. 

“We’ve observed time and time again that the walkable, human scale, traditional pattern of development is the most financially productive approach to building human settlements, and these cities will be the most able, in the long recovery to come, to provide the services essential for their residents’ health and well-being.”