Thursday, January 26, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About Home Warranties

What is a Home Warranty?
A home warranty is a service plan that protects a homeowner when their major mechanical systems and appliances break down, saving them from high repair costs. Home warranties are available on residential homes for both new construction and existing homes.

What it’s NOT:
Some people might get confused between a home warranty plan and a homeowner's insurance policy, but homeowners insurance is required by your mortgage company and covers your home and personal property in the event of an accident, fire, flood, or major system failure. Homeowners must maintain a homeowner's insurance policy, while a home warranty is optional.

How long does it last?
Home warranty service agreements can vary, but most last for a term of a year or sometimes more. Home warranties can be renewed.

What does it cover?
Home warranties cover normal wear and tear on a home’s systems and appliances.

Most new-home warranties furnished by builders cover the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems of your home. These warranties also cover windows, plumbing, and electrical systems for workmanship and materials, but not the total replacement. Siding, drywall, paint, trim and stucco are also usually included.

However, one distinction to remember is that these MUST be in good working order when you sign the agreement with the warranty company, or else they are not eligible for repair. Most plans are customizable, so make sure to review your agreement before you sign it and ask plenty of questions to ensure that you're adequately covered.

What is NOT covered:
Consumers should be aware that standard home warranties don’t cover new home appliances. Unlike homeowners insurance, home warranties won’t cover the cost of staying in a hotel if you can’t stay in your residence (for instance, if a heater goes out in winter, your water heater causes a flood, etc.). Small breaks and defects like cracked tile, a scratched appliance, etc. are not covered, either.

The cost of a home warranty:
Home warranty policies range greatly based on the company, the level of coverage, the deductible, and the term. Most home warranty plans fall between $250 and $600 annually.

You’ll pay a deductible when you make a claim.
Any time you file a claim with your home warranty company, you’ll be required to pay a deductible, ranging from $50 to $100 per incident.
Different levels of coverage:
There is no one universal home warranty policy, so you’ll want to pick the level of coverage that best fits your needs. Basic coverage usually covers your furnace, A/C, and major appliances, while upgraded plans cover far more appliances and systems, albeit at a greater cost.

How does it work?
When an appliance or system in your home malfunctions due to normal wear and tear, the homeowner will call their warranty company and register a claim. The warranty company will then arrange for a contractor or repairman to come out to diagnose the problem and make the needed repairs or replace them all together.

Do age and condition matter?
As long as your systems and appliances were in good working order at the time you entered into the home warranty agreement, it won’t matter how old they are.

Home warranties also can help home sellers?
Home sellers can also purchase a home warranty plan and include it in the sale, transferring it to the new buyer. Studies show that homes that include a warranty sell 16% faster than homes that do not, with an average of 66.5 days on the market compared to 55.5, respectively. Homes for sale that offer a home warranty also sell for an average of $2,500 more than those without one!

Who does the repair work?
In the event of a problem, your home warranty company will ask you to submit a claim, at which time they will supply their own approved contractor to do the work. These contractors are often on their list due to pre-arranged discounts, so make sure to ask questions and get in writing that the quality of work, schedule, materials used, etc. won't be compromised.

The most common home warranty repairs:
28% Pool, pest, roof, etc.
26% HVAC (heating and air system)
22% Plumbing
13% Appliance
7% Rekey locks
4% Electrical

Customer satisfaction with home warranties isn’t a strong point.
Unfortunately, many consumers are caught unaware when things break in their home, but they aren't covered in their home warranty. Common customer gripes include the abundance of documentation the warranty company requires, the amount of reimbursement, and the fact that some items aren't included, and some claims denied.

It's always best to thoroughly review all agreements and ask plenty of questions before you pay for a home warranty, as well as keeping all receipts, documentation, and paperwork in case of an issue or dispute.

Should you get a home warranty?
Research shows that if your home new construction and homes less than ten years old, the chance of your appliances or systems failing is extremely small, rendering a home warranty an unneeded expense. However, for homes that are older than ten years and especially those with older big-ticket systems like HVAC, home warranties offer great assurance and save homeowners a lot of money.

FSBO Fail: Why trying to sell your own house simply doesn’t work

Every year, a very small portion of brave and misguided homeowners try to sell their homes themselves, without the help of a real estate agent. Why would anyone try to sell their home as a FSBO (For Sale By Owner)? Unless they happen to be a real estate attorney, there is only one likely motive: to try and save money.

After all, a typical full real estate commission is 6%, with 3% going to the buyer’s agent and 3% paid to the seller.

“Isn’t 6% of the sales price a whole lot to give up when selling my house?” their thinking usually goes, and rightfully so.

But remember that when listing FSBO, homeowners still need to pay a buyer’s commission of 3%. If they don’t offer a commission for the buyer’s realtor, no one will ever show the home or do business with them.

But maybe they'll just find a buyer that doesn't want to use a real estate agent, so they won't have to pay their commission? Wrong. The vast majority of buyers use a Realtor to help them and why wouldn't they, since it's free for them. If a buyer doesn't use a Realtor for some strange reason then surely they'll expect the appropriate discount – or more – from the seller.

So we’ve established that FSBOs are essentially just trying to save 3% of the sale price.

All of a sudden trying to go the FSBO route is only half as financially attractive. But FSBOs are even more financial fool’s gold, as we’ll see.

To address the obvious, I am a Realtor, so of course I have a vested interest in people using a real estate agent (me!) when buying or selling their home. But the facts that support using professional representation when selling your home don't need hyperbole or embellishment, as you'll see.

Here are 20 facts about homeowners who sell their home with the help of a Realtor versus those who (try) to sell on their own:

According to the latest reports, 89% of sellers now use a real estate agent to sell their home.

For Sale By Owner (FSBOs) accounted for only 8% of all home sales.

The remaining 3% can be accounted for with real estate attorneys, family-to-family sales, sales occurring during a divorce and the like.

Now let’s look at the ever-important financials when it comes to FSBOs versus using a Realtor to sell your home:

The average FSBO sold for $210,000.

Meanwhile, the average home listed with a real estate agent sold for $249,000.

That’s a difference of $39,000 – or 15.6% in sale price – when listing with a Realtor.

For every sale to be successful they need a buyer, so let’s look at the stats on home buyers using real estate agents to further illuminate this discussion. These days, 87% of homebuyers purchase their home through a professional real estate agent or broker.

That's a marked increase from the low point in 2001 when only 69% of buyers used a real estate agent or broker to sell.

While a good portion of those that don’t use a real estate agent try to sell themselves, there are other factors that contribute to those numbers, like sales between family members, divorcing spouses, direct from the builder and also company relocation sales.

When searching for a home, buyers used these information sources:

  • Real estate agent: 87%
  • Yard sign: 51%
  • Mobile of tablet website or application: 57%
  • Open house: 48%
  • Mobile or tablet search engine: 54%
  • Print newspaper advertisement: 20%

If the average FSBO sells for $210,000, the seller will net (discounting all other factors, taxes, fees, etc. for purposes of this illustration):

$210,000 - $6,300 (3% paid to buyer’s agent) = $203,700

Now let’s look at the average home sold with a Realtor.

Numerous studies and housing market research show that the average Realtor-listed home sells for $249,000. That means the seller would net (discounting all other factors, taxes, fees, again):

$249,000 - $7,470 (3% paid to buyer’s agent) - $7,470 (3% paid to listing agent) = $234,060

Even after paying a full commission to both agents, homeowners who sell with Realtors net 14.9% more profit.

That’s almost a 15% increase in profits just by using a Realtor!

If home sellers were truly motivated by putting the most money in their pockets as possible (and why wouldn’t they be?) and are thinking clearly (that’s the problem), data proves that they can make an additional 1/7th just by enlisting the help of a real estate agent.

But there are other compelling reasons not to list your home as a FSBO.

Time is also not on the side of FSBOs. Considering that:

Average time to sell for FSBO: 88 days
Average time to sell for listings with a Realtor: 69 days

So working with a Realtor saves at least 19 days, which is 22% longer on average, in an industry when time is definitely of the essence during limited hot-selling seasons of spring and summer, and the subsequent cooling of sales and prices during the winter.

Interestingly enough, 20% of FSBOs end up relisting on the MLS after the do not sell the first time, which creates a lot more work and time delays for the sellers.

When it comes to marketing their FSBO, how do sellers fare? Not very well, judging by these statistics:

The most common marketing tactics for FSBOs:

  • Yard sign: 42%
  • Friends, relatives, or neighbors: 32%
  • Online classified advertisements: 14%
  • Open house: 14%
  • For-sale-by-owner websites: 15%
  • Social networking websites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.): 15%
  • Multiple Listing Service (MLS) website: 10%
  • Print newspaper advertisement: 3%
  • Direct mail (flyers, postcards, etc.): 3%
  • Video: 2%
  • Other: 1%
  • None: Did not actively market home: 25%

What were the biggest challenges FSBOs reported?

  • Understanding and performing paperwork: 12%
  • Getting the right price: 6%
  • Preparing/fixing up home for sale: 6%
  • Selling within the planned length of time: 18%
  • Having enough time to devote to all aspects of the sale: 6%

In fact, a recent survey found that owners of FSBOs reported having 70% more stress during a transaction than those who sold with a Realtor.

The contracts, disclosures, documents, timelines, procedures, etc. necessary to sell a home sometimes reach hundreds of pages, and you can’t just skip them because you’re unfamiliar or selling a home yourself.

Additionally, there is the potential for HUGE liability issues with every single real estate transaction. People do end up getting sued and in court all the time when they don't properly disclose material facts about their house, their neighborhood, etc. A seller essentially magnifies their liability when they represent themselves in the sale of their own home (talk about a conflict of interest!).

There are even things you can’t say as a Realtor that extend to a homeowner when they decide to try and sell their own home, like Fair Housing Laws that curb discrimination, steering, redlining, and other practices. If you don’t know exactly what you can and can’t say – or even write in your ads for your home – you could be violating federal laws.

What does it all add up to?

If you want to net 14.9% more profit,
Have less stress 70% while working far less,
Sell 22% faster,
And avoid a huge liability and potential to be sued,

Then skip the thought of listing your home as a FSBO and do it the right way with a Realtor at the Alfano Group instead!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

20 facts about the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

For many of us, one of our greatest childhood memories was when the circus came to town, and there is no better greatest show on earth than The Ringling Bros. circus. Sadly, it’s just been announced that the circus will be putting on its last show in 2017, then folding after nearly 150 years of entertaining the American public.

"After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will hold its final performances in May of this year,” company's CEO Kenneth Feld said. Feld cited declining ticket sales, the public call for excluding elephants from the show, and high operating costs as a reason the business is no longer sustainable.

To celebrate the Greatest Show on Earth, here are 20 facts about the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus.

1. According to the company’s press release, The Ringling Bros. circus will hold its last performance in Uniondale, New York on May 21.

2. The seven “Ringling” brothers were born in Iowa and raised in Wisconsin, where their real name was Rungeling.

3. The brothers put on their first show in 1882 in Mazomanie, Wisconsin, advertised as the "Ringling Bros. Variety Performance."

4. Originally a competitor of the Barnum and Bailey Circus, the Ringling brothers and agreed to divide the country into territories where they could perform, which kept them out of Madison Square Garden in New York until 1905.

5. That year, the owner of the Barnum and Bailey circus passed away, and the Ringling brothers bought their circus in 1907 for $400,000 (about $8.5 million today). They ran them as two separate entities until 1919 when the Barnum and Bailey's Circus and the Ringling Bros. Circus were merged.

6. On July 6, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut, a fire broke out during one of the circus performances, killing 167 people and injuring at least 700 more. The cause of the blaze was never determined, but The Hartford Circus Fire remains one of the worst fires in U.S. history.

7. They certainly take their clowning seriously at the circus so in 1968, a Circus Clown College was founded by Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey to teach, uphold and pass on the art of clowning – although women weren’t allowed to enroll until 1970.

8. In 1978, Feld Entertainment purchased the original Ringling Bros. Circus for $8 million.

9. The owner, Irvin Feld, did away with the freak show section of performances because he didn’t want to make money by exploiting or demeaning other peoples’ appearances. Instead, he led the circus into a more family-friendly era.

10. An entertainment institution in America, around 10 million people visited the Ringling Brothers circus every year, dubbed The Greatest Show on Earth.

11. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus comes to between 90 and 120 cities the U.S. and Canada every year, making sure no city ever sees the same performance twice.

12. The entire circus travels between cities by train, divided into two separate train lines, the Red Unit and the Blue Unit. Both trains consist of 55 or 56 cars, span almost 5,000 feet and weigh more than 4,000 tons.

13. The train lines include 33 conventional passenger cars for personnel, 2 container flats for storage, 17 piggyback flats to carry equipment, props, stage sets, and vehicles, and 4 animal stock cars.

14. In later years, the circus made huge concessions to ensure that their animals were treated well, especially the elephants.

15. Animal stock cars were specially designed for ventilation and climate control, had all animals facing each other, well-trained humans attending them, and sat directly behind the locomotive for the smoothest ride.

16. These pampered elephants were also given a supply of food and water. In fact, each circus elephant ate about 150-250 pounds of hay, grains, fruits and vegetables daily, as well as drinking 30-50 gallons of water.

17. In all, it took six hours to unload the train at every stop and twelve hours to set up for the next show!

18. To answer a rising outcry about the dwindling number of elephants in the wild and their treatment in the circus, The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation (CEC) was established in 1995. Sitting on 200 acres in central Florida, it's a place that tends to the safety, health, reproduction, and retirement of the endangered Asian elephant, now with less than 35,000 alive on the planet.

19. However, in 2016, the 40 remaining elephants used by the circus were retired from performing after officials faced decades of lawsuits, protests, and concerns from animal rights advocates. According to the company, ticket sales took a huge hit once elephants were no longer part of the circus.

20. The beloved circus may be closing its doors, but it certainly won't be forgotten, as several books and movies are in the works about circuses in American history, including a movie entitled "The Greatest Showman on Earth" about P.T. Barnum starring Hugh Jackman.

So what did you like best about the circus? 

Should you go tankless? A fact sheet on tankless water heaters for your home.

Have you ever looked at the water heater in your garage with its perpetual-burning heat source, rusty, battleship-like drum, and think that there must be a better way to get hot water? If not, then you’ve certainly given it some thought when you open your bills and start writing checks.

In fact, there is a better way to supply hot water to your home, saving significant money and energy. Today, we’ll cover everything you need to know about tankless water heaters, also called instantaneous water heating systems. They’re most prevalent in new homes and high-end homes these days, but with 27 million households in the U.S. using a water heater that’s at least 10 years old, tankless systems are expected to soon become the new norm.

The average household used about 64 gallons of water each day, adding up to a $400-$600 annual expense for hot water alone. In fact, heating water usually represents the second-highest utility expense in the home, accounting for 14-18% of all utility bills!

Tankless water heaters are powered by either an electric, gas, or propane heating device inside the unit. Electric heaters using 110 or 220 Volts are most common for single-unit tankless heaters that supply hot water to only one bathroom or kitchen, while larger whole-house tankless systems are usually fueled by gas or propane because they heat the water more quickly.

While that those may be the same fuel sources for heating water in conventional water heaters, tankless water heaters operate not by storing large quantities of water in a tank but heating the water as it's needed, in only the quantity that’s needed.

The standard size for conventional water heaters is typically 40 gallons, but they do range up to 120 gallons. Conventional water heaters work by channeling some of the cold water from your water source into the tank, where it continuously heats it. If the water temperature falls below a certain set temp, the burner kicks in and the entire volume of water is heated up again.

In tankless systems, however, water is heated up quickly via an exchanger, which turns on anytime you tune on your hot water faucet, so water is only heated when there’s a demand, saving a whole lot of energy (and cost.)

In fact, the Department of Energy estimates that tankless systems reduce home energy costs by about 34% annually!

The most energy efficient tankless water heaters are single-point application heaters, which means they are present in each room where hot water is necessary (kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room.) These single-point application heaters run between 2 to 5 gallons per minute.

While a standard water heater costs about $400 at your home supply store, tankless units do cost more – typically $700 to $1,500 each. But  homeowners can recoup that cost within a few years with the energy savings from going tankless.

Even better, tankless systems last longer, with an average life expectancy of 20 years, compared to 11-15 years life span for conventional tank water heaters.

Tankless water heaters are only about the size of a suitcase, taking up far less space than their round-drum counterparts (saving you garage space!) and are safer. You’d be surprised how often water heaters malfunction and explode, hence the need for a pressure release valve and drain. Likewise, when conventional tank water heaters do finally fail and die, it could potentially cause some serious water damage in the home.

Tankless systems can be difficult to costly to retrofit into your home, however, so they’re usually best installed with new construction or when your home is being renovated.

The hot water also may take a little longer to reach your faucet when it comes from a tankless system and is heated on-demand, although homeowners quickly become accustomed to this.

But while conventional heaters can run out of water when someone takes a long, hot shower (leaving the next person with a cold shower), tankless systems never run out of hot water since they heat on demand.

Water tanks can also corrode inside over time, compromising the cleanliness and even the safety of the water being supplied to your home.

Other options for hot water at home include hybrid electric systems, solar water heaters, and heat pump systems.

When shopping for a tankless water heater, check the unit’s flow rate, which is measured in gallons per minute. The higher the BTU rating (British Thermal Units), the higher the unit’s flow rate. It usually takes about 31,000 BTU to heat 4 Gallons Per Minute (GPM) of hot water. For reference, 4 GPM is about enough to supply hot water to one sink and one shower simultaneously, while a 6 GPM system can deliver enough hot water for two showers at the same time.

Dishwashers and washing machines can take a lot of hot water, but newer models also self-heat their own water, reducing the demand on your tankless system.

Look for a tankless water heater with a good efficiency rating, which usually takes between 78% and 87%, as well as the ENEGRYSTAR designation.

Friday, January 13, 2017

25 Little-known facts about Whole Foods

1. The concept for Whole Foods was born in 1978 when John Mackey and Renee Lawson Hardy opened an all-natural health food store in Austin, Texas.

2. But it was far from the sparkling operation we know today, as Mackey and Hardy actually opened it in a residential home that was zoned for commercial use. They had a small grocery on the first floor, café on the second, and had their small office and living quarters on the third floor. Since it was zoned for commercial, it no longer had showers, so the two founders had to bathe using the dishwater hose!

3. Their original name was less than ideal, too. The original name of the brand we now know was SaferWay, a rip at the SafeWay grocery chain.

4. By 1980 they had merged with another health food store called Clarksville Grocery and together came up with the name Whole Foods.

5. But only a few months later, the store was wiped out by the worst flood in Austin history, causing $400,000 in damage and almost causing them to shut their doors forever. But it re-opened less than a month later, thanks to help from several customer volunteers and eager employees.

6. That first Whole Foods started with just 19 employees (Team Members) in 1980, and several of them are still with the organization.

7. Whole Food's company headquarters is in Austin, Texas, as well as its flagship store on Lamar Boulevard. The store, encompassing more than 80,000 square feet, is one of the top tourist destinations in Austin, hosting more visitors than even the Texas state capitol! It also has many "hangout spaces" and other amenities for patrons, including an ice skating rink on the roof!

8. They opened five more stores in Texas, and in 1988, opened their first non-Texas store in New Orleans, Louisiana. By 2001, Whole Foods went big city by coming to Manhattan (the largest grocery store in NYC) and the first California store was in Palo Alto in 2004.

9. There are now 385 Whole Foods stores across the United States, Canada, and even the U.K., making it the largest supermarket retailer of natural and organic food products in the world.

10. Co-founder John Mackey is now the CEO, and he does things a little differently than most large corporations. In fact, Mackey has given himself only a $1 per year salary since 2007, with no bonuses or stock options!

11. Whole Foods also institutes a "salary cap" for its executives, mandating that no exec makes more than 19 times the average company salary.

12. As of 2013, the average hourly wage for Whole Foods employees was $18.89, amounting to nearly $40,000 per year.

13. CEO Mackey has even instituted a “no secrets” policy where the salaries of every single employee – including executives – is public knowledge and available to anyone in the organization.

14. With employee-first practices and great treatment like that, it’s no wonder that Whole Foods has been on Fortune Magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies To Work For” for 17 straight years.

15. Whole Foods stopped using plastic bags to bag its groceries for patrons on Earth Day in 2008, a move which they estimate has kept 150 million plastic bags out of the landfills since.

16. The grocery bags they now use (called Better Bags) are made of 80 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, with each bag effectively taking four 20-ounce plastic bottles out of landfills.

17. Dedicated to providing only natural, healthy food, Whole Foods maintains a list of 80 “unacceptable ingredients” that are banned from all stores. Many of these include food with GMOs, hydrogenated fats, artificial flavors, etc. but also Aspirin and any pain relievers like Ibuprofen are outlawed from Whole Foods stores.

18. Thanks to practices like that, Whole Foods is frequently recognized by The Environmental Protection Agency as a Green Power Partner of the Year, as well as winning other awards for environmental advocacy.

Whole foods has also been named “Best Animal-Friendly Retailer” by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

19. Feel like shoplifting from Whole Foods? I can guarantee you'll make it at least past the front doors undisturbed, even if you don't even try to hide your larceny. That's because, since 2007, Whole Foods has a strict policy where employees are not allowed to make physical contact with patrons under any circumstances – especially shoplifting, meant to protect their team members. The policy is no joke, as an employee (who was also a former Marine) was fired in 2007 for chasing and physically apprehending a shoplifter in Michigan.

20. Despite all of these kudos and accolades, Whole Foods hasn't escaped scrutiny and even scandal. In fact, in 2015 they were busted by the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York, who found that area stores were falsifying the weights of prepackaged items to bring in more profits, sometimes overcharging by as much as $15! Both Mackey and co-CEO Walter Robb admitted to making mistakes that they would correct, but not intentionally misleading customers. (Isn't it ironic that "mistakes" are never in the consumer's favor?!)

21. While Whole Foods won't stock aspirin or other over-the-counter cold and flu relievers, they do carry a host of natural remedies, leading to criticism that most of these homeopathic cures are not approved by the FDA.

22. Whole Foods has also been dubbed "Whole Paycheck" for its astronomical prices compared to other food stores. Believe me, everyone who works there including management are aware of this moniker. To counter it, they're planning to launch a series of more affordable grocery chains to compete with WalMart foods and others, called 365 by Whole Foods Market.

23. But no one can accuse Whole Foods of not being extremely caring and generous, both on an individual employee and organizational level. In fact, they run programs to provide meals to children in Rwanda through the UN World Food Program, and Whole Foods team members have also donated $500,000 to the Whole Planet Foundation, helping more than 13,000 people work to lift their lives from poverty. Whole Foods stores also hold community giving days called "5% Days" where that portion of the day's net sales is pledged to a local nonprofit.

24. The company is extremely environmentally and clean energy conscious, too. Their store in Glastonbury, CT was the first supermarket to generate power from an on-site fuel cell, and in 2006, they purchase enough renewable energy credits from wind farms in Canada to offset 100% of the electricity needs for all of their stories in the U.S., the largest such purchase in North American history.

25. Do you shop at Whole Foods? If you were so inclined, there are beautiful Whole Foods grocery stores located at  4315 Arden Way in Sacramento, 500 First Street in Davis, 1001 Galleria Blvd. in Roseville, and 270 Palladio Parkway in Folsom!

10 Reasons to come grow your real estate business with The Alfano Group

With approximately 6,000 active real estate agents in the great Sacramento area, there are scores of brokerages for Realtors to choose. But when it comes to hanging your license in the right firm for you, it's wise to weigh a lot of factors aside from just company size. In fact, we're of the strong opinion that working as a real estate agent with The Alfano Group in Rocklin is a perfect fit for those that are hard working, diligent, ethical, and want to build long-term, highly lucrative careers. We're always looking to bring a couple of high-quality individuals on board that fit that description, so we'd love to chat with you to see if it's a great match. But if you need further evidence that the Alfano Group is the perfect place to see your real estate business grow, here are 10 reasons: 

1. A great professional reputation and strong ties to the community
The Alfano Group Real Estate Agency has helped thousands of people buy and sell homes in Sacramento, Placer, and El Dorado County for years. From the CEO, Anthony Alfano himself, to all of the Realtors and staff, that reputation permeates in the community, giving you a great first impression. When you come to work for the Alfano Group, a lot will be expected of you, but you’ll also have an edge on the competition based on our reputation.

2. Flexibility
If you’re already a real estate agent, you know that the career entails a lot of hard work and hours, but also great flexibility. Do you want to work only mornings so you can spend more time with the kids? Are you looking to build a thriving business only on nights and weekends so you can keep your day job? Are you looking to invest 50 hours a week into your business, but want to be able to pick and choose when to work so you still have life balance? If any of those are true, then a career in real estate with The Alfano Group may be for you.

3. Support
From personal training to professional education, an impressive office where you can work or meet clients to great transaction coordinators and staff, coming to work with The Alfano Group means that you’ll have all of the encouragement, support, and resources necessary to take your real estate sales career to new heights. We also have great established relationships with home inspectors, appraisers, contractors, title companies, mortgage firms, and even an affiliated property management company for you to utilize.

4. Personal touch of a small firm
When you enlist with one of the many large real estate firms, you are little more than a number, as decisions and policies are set on a national level with thousands of competing agents in mind. But if you choose to watch your career blossom with The Alfano Group, you’ll benefit from all of the one-on-one training, support, and personal investment of a boutique real estate firm, where we are all like family and have invested interest in seeing you do well.

5. Company marketing
At other big firms with hundreds of agents, you'll pay a big chunk of your hard-earned money on marketing and advertising costs. While it's important for each Realtor to build his or her individual business, at The Alfano Group you'll be able to use all of our marketing tools already in place, including a state-of-the-art website, custom blogging and visual marketing campaign, social media accounts, and other marketing systems that are proven to work. Pick and choose what works for you, but you can always benefit from our custom company marketing!  

6. Top earning potential
Let's be frank here; people may enjoy recognition, camaraderie, and the perks that come with their job, but we all work for the money. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to earn top dollar, and in real estate, earning a sizable income just means that you helped more families buy or sell their homes successfully. With typical brokerage commissions 2.5-3% of the sale price for a home purchase, it’s possible to earn more money in less time in real estate than perhaps any other non-technical field.

7. Choose your niche market – and your income
Furthermore, when you help buyers and sellers in communities with high-end or luxury homes, the commissions are proportionally higher for each sale. It’s up to you if you want to work with first-time buyers, investors, move-up buyers, only sellers/buyers, or whatever niche in whatever price range you wish, but the bottom line is that Realtors that work with The Alfano Group earn sizably more than the average real estate agent.

8. Be on the cutting edge of technology
Mobile apps for buyers to search for homes; virtual and video tours; drone footage of luxury homes; all of these things – and much more - are possible when you work for The Alfano Group. We focus on arming our agents with the most current technology and tools that help serve our clients, helping you attract more business than ever and thrive.

9. The Alfano Group is built on the total customer experience
We never forget that our #1 priority is helping our clients buy or sell their home better than anyone else. Period. Our obsession to be the best means we always put the client first, doing what is right for them and going the extra mile, with little regard for our own interests. That mission dictates everything we do every day, driving us to offer the best total customer experience anywhere in the real estate industry. As an agent, that's the exact environment you want to be in to build a lucrative long-term career that you love!

10. Leadership and learning from the best
Our CEO, Anthony Alfano, ran several successful businesses, before investing all of that experience and wisdom into forming one company, The Alfano Group. He’s now one of the region’s top real estate brokers, winning numerous awards and accolades every year. Mr. Alfano strives for nothing short of perfection and excellence. His passion is contagious, his knowledge is powerful, and as an agent, you’ll learn, grow, and benefit from his leadership!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The 50 Best Quotes About Business, Sales, and Success You’ll Need to Motivate You

Are you starting your own business in 2017, have been the CEO of your own enterprise for a while now, or are just motivated to achieve big things in the business world this coming year? One of the key attributes of almost all successful business men and women is that they are constantly learning. There are two ways to do this: learning by experience and doing, and then by studying the lessons of other successful people. In fact, there are very clear road maps to help us achieve great things in the business world – we just have to take advantage of them. So to start, we’ve assembled the 50 best quotations about business, sales, and success you’ll ever read.

1.         "I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have."
-Thomas Jefferson

2.         "People who succeed have momentum. The more they succeed, the more they want to succeed, and the more they find a way to succeed. Similarly, when someone is failing, the tendency is to get on a downward spiral that can even become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
-Tony Robbins

3.         "Don't let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning."
-Robert Kiyosaki

4.         "The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."
-Walt Disney

5.         "The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus."
-Bruce Lee

6.         "It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation."
-Herman Melville

7.         "Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it."
-Henry David Thoreau

8.         "Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great."
-John D. Rockefeller

9.         "There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed."
-Ray Goforth

10.       "If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary."
-Jim Rohn

11.       "All progress takes place outside the comfort zone."
-Michael John Bobak

12.       "I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure--It is: Try to please everybody."
-Herbert Bayard Swope

13.       "A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that other throw at him."
14.       -David Brinkley

15.       "Don't be distracted by criticism. Remember--the only taste of success some people get is to take a bite out of you."
-Zig Ziglar

16.       "The secret of success is to do the common thing uncommonly well."
-John D. Rockefeller Jr.

17.       “Time is the friend of the wonderful business, the enemy of the mediocre.”
-Warren Buffet

18.       "Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value." 
-Albert Einstein

19.       “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” 
-Henry Ford

20.       “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.”
-Abraham Lincoln

21.       “When you delve deep enough, you find that practically every great fortune and great enterprise in America has sprung from the courage enterprise of some individuals.”
-B.C. Forbes

22.       “Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.”
-Biz Stone

23.       “Stay self-funded as long as possible.” 
-Garrett Camp

24.       “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.”
-Sir Richard Branson

25.       “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
-Bill Gates

26.       “Any business plan won’t survive its first encounter with reality. The reality will always be different. It will never be the plan.”
-Jeff Bezos

27.       “Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you.”
-Tony Hsieh

28.       “What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone. Know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed.”
-Dave Thomas

29.       “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
-Mark Zuckerberg

30.       “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”
-Colin Powell

31.       “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
-Sam Walton

32.       “In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later.”
-Harold S. Geneen

33.       “Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can't miss.”
-Lee Iacocca

34.       “Ideas pull the trigger, but instinct loads the gun.”
-Don Marquis

35.       “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”
-Steve Jobs

36.       “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
-Dale Carnegie

37.       “Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman - not the attitude of the prospect.”
-W. Clement Stone

38.       “One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”
-Arnold H. Glasow

39.       “I want to put a ding in the universe.”
-Steve Jobs

40.       “People are definitely a company's greatest asset. It doesn't make any difference whether the product is cars or cosmetics. A company is only as good as the people it keeps.”
-Mary Kay Ash

41.       “Do more than is required. What is the distance between someone who achieves their goals consistently and those who spend their lives and careers merely following? The extra mile.”
-Gary Ryan Blair

42.       “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”
-Andy Warhol

43.       “Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.”
-W. Edwards Deming

44.       “Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I'm not there, I go to work.”
-Robert Orben

45.       “It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference.”
-Tom Brokaw

46.       “Anyone who has lost track of time when using a computer knows the propensity to dream, the urge to make dreams come true and the tendency to miss lunch.”
-Tim Berners-Lee

47.       “Punctuality is one of the cardinal business virtues: always insist on it in your subordinates.”
-Don Marquis

48.       “I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded. In fact, if anything, I am the prod.”
-Winston Churchill

49.       “The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.”
-Napoleon Hill

50.       “Markets change, tastes change, so the companies and the individuals who choose to compete in those markets must change.”
-An Wang

Why have crime rates dropped so much in the U.S., yet we still don't feel safe?

Is normal life in America more dangerous than ever? That seems to be the feeling if you listen to most people, who feel that crime is growing, criminals are running rampant, and they’re less safe than ever. But, in fact, research points to the fact that quite the opposite is true, as we covered in part one of this blog.

So why do we still think our society is rife with crime?

According to a 2014 Gallup poll, a majority of Americans report thinking "there is more crime in the U.S. than there was a year ago.” In fact, about 63 percent of Americans surveyed say that crime is up over just one year ago.

That pessimism that we live in a lawful and orderly society also mirrors a long-term trend, with Americans saying they feel crime is up nearly every year they're polled, despite crime actually falling by about 4% or more year-over-year recently.

In fact, except for a couple of anomalies, serious crime has dropped every year from 1994 through 2015. For instance, in 2013, the number of homicides in the U.S. fell to 14,196 for the year – down from a peak of 24,703 in 1991 despite the population increasingly significantly in that period! Overall, violent crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery have fallen 38% between 1992 and 2011, and many of them even more since that year.

But for more than a decade now, that Gallup poll, as well as many others, report that Americans believe crime is up – and getting worse.

This revelation has completely shocked many experts, directly contradicting their prognostications.

"Recent declines in rates of violent crime in the United States caught many researchers and policymakers off guard," wrote criminology professor Gary LaFree in 1999. "These declines were perhaps more surprising in that they came on the heels of dire predictions about the rise of a generation of 'superpredators' who would soon unleash the full force of their destructive capacities on an already crime-weary nation."

No matter what metric you look at or which report you read, it's evident that crime rates have dropped significantly in the United States over the last thirty years. In fact, it's the one thing that experts can agree upon. However, what's bizarre is that from sociologists to law enforcement personnel, political theorists to renowned economists, no one can quite put their finger on WHY crime is down.

Perhaps the most comprehensive study of the decline of crime in U.S society comes from The Brennan Center, who recently issued a report examining multiple theories for why crime rates have fallen off a cliff in the U.S. since the early 1990s.

According to The Brennan Center’s study, here are some possible factors:

An aging population commits less crime
The Baby Boomers are by far the largest generation in American history, with about 75 million citizens 65 years or older right now. One theory goes that as the Boomers matured and the averaged population gradually aged in the U.S., fewer crimes were committed (following research that most crimes are committed by younger people.)

Decrease in alcohol consumption
Some political scientists point to the fact that alcohol consumption in the U.S. has declined since the early 1990s, albeit only slightly. But fewer people under the influence of alcohol equate to less bad decisions and criminal behavior, they argue.

Economic prosperity drove crime down
The 1990s were the salad days for the U.S. economy, with low unemployment rates and higher incomes almost across the board. Some experts point out that with increased economic prosperity, it’s natural that there were fewer criminals that had to rob, steal, sell drugs, etc. to survive.

A larger and more efficient police presence
In the 1990s, policing got a complete overhaul in many major cities. Thousands of new police officers were hired, training improved, and the force started integrating technology that allowed them to combat crime strategically and efficiently like never before.

Higher incarceration rates
During the 1990s, and continuing today, the incarceration rate skyrocketed in the U.S., as we now lock up more of our citizens, both in real numbers and percentages, than any country in the world. Is a drop in the crime rate simply a factor of doing a goo job putting the bad guys behind bars?

Taming of the 1980s crack epidemic
The introduction of the powerful and highly addictive new drug, crack, rocked major U.S. cities in the 1980s, virtually overnight. But one theory is that as the police, courts, treatment and addiction centers, etc. caught up with the crack cocaine epidemic, it was only logical that crime rates would fall.

Prevalence of anti-depressants
In the 1980s and earlier, there was little or no diagnosis or treatment of depression, anxiety, ADD, and other conditions that could explain anti-social behavior like crime.

Changes in lead poisoning
Are you thinking of lead? The neurotoxic element stunts intellectual growth in children and causes behavioral problems when they become adults, but it wasn’t seen as a possible culprit for a nationwide crime wave until recently. In her 2007 paper on the relationship, economist Jessica Reyes attributed a 56 percent drop in violent crime in the 1990s to the removal of lead from gasoline after the Clean Air Act of 1970.

With children born after the early 1970s less affected by lead’s toxic effects, the logic goes, they would be less likely to commit crimes once they reached their 20s in the early 1990s. Mother Jones reporter Kevin Drum helped popularize the theory in his 2013 cover story. “In states where consumption of leaded gasoline declined slowly, crime declined slowly,” he wrote. “Where it declined quickly, crime declined quickly.” And, perhaps most intriguingly, the correlation held in other countries, too.

Increases in technology, computers, and cell phones
Does our technology make it harder for criminals to operate, easier for us to protect ourselves and stay informed, and catch the bad guys?

So what's the right answer? 
The Brennan Center meticulously studied the possible influence of all of these theories. They found that most of them could only possibly account for only a marginal decrease in crime rates. In fact, their conclusion was that all of these factors together could only statistically justify maybe a one-third reduction in the crime rates we’ve seen.

However, another less-publicized theory could hold the secret to why we think crime is growing every year, despite the fact that it’s dropped significantly: media coverage.

Simply put, the more headlines about murders are splashed on newspapers, the more the nightly news leads with another shooting or a home invasion, and every time we see a mugging or assault in our social media newsfeed, the less safe we feel – despite evidence to the contrary. For instance, in 1991 when there were an all-time high 24,703 murders in New York City, for a homicide rate of 31 out of every 100,000 people, the New York Times mentioned "murder" or "homicide" only 129 times.

But in 2013, when the homicide rate was a much lower 4 people out of every 100,000, the New York Times mentioned “murder” or “homicide” 135 times!

That's just one prominent newspaper, and these days, news websites, news feeds, digital news in public places, TV news, and social media accounts are everywhere, telling us that we're not safe.

As a nation, we’re ingesting an exponentially higher number of messages about violent crime, and therefore, we think that reflects our reality.