The Do’s and Don’ts of Selling Your Home

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Many homeowners will tell you how emotional it was to buy their first home, but you rarely hear about their experience selling it. It’s only natural to grow attached after creating so many wonderful memories, which can make selling a challenging process. 

Fortunately, you’re not in it alone. Together, we can simplify the process and make sure you get top dollar when selling your home.

Let’s get started with some simple do’s and don’ts for selling your first home: 

What should you do?

  • Get your home ready for the market. We’ll collaborate on strategic repairs and updates, home staging, photography and more options to attract buyers. 

  • Plan for your next move. We’ll work together to make sure that you’ve got your next home lined up when your current home sells. 

  • Be aware of your timeline. While our goal is to sell your house fast, you never know what hiccups a buyer might encounter along the way. Being aware of your timeline is essential.

  • Prepare to negotiate. After the home inspection, the buyer may ask for repairs or concessions. That’s why it’s always best for you to have a local real estate expert represent you when selling.

What shouldn’t you do?

  • Don’t assume you have to sell in the spring. Homes are sold every day. In fact, it can often be in your best interest to avoid selling in the spring because you’ll have less competition. Ultimately, the right time to sell is when you’re ready. 

  • Don’t price based on your emotions. You value your beloved home, but if it’s priced beyond its worth, it will sit on the market. We’ll review local comps and discuss your home’s market value together.

  • Don’t forget to plan for the closing. To seal the deal, be fully prepared for settlement. Bring your ID and be prepared to review and sign paperwork.

Have you been thinking about selling your home? Or are you just curious about what it’s worth in today’s market? Reach out today for a comprehensive review.

Real Estate Opportunities for Entrepreneurs

Even new entrants can profit from one of the economy’s most dynamic and profitable sectors.

5 Real Estate Opportunities for Entrepreneurs in 2020

Real estate has always been one of the most attractive investment offerings. Its relative stability makes it a good option for capital appreciation, and when done well, it can generate exponential profits. In 2019, the housing market made significant gains, driven largely by a reduction in supply and very low mortgage rates. Experts predict that the trend is likely to continue, meaning that for entrepreneurs and investors looking to turn serious profits, real estate is definitely the place to be looking at. Here are five ways to enter the market quickly and profitably.

1. Real Estate Mutual Funds

You can choose mutual funds that invest generally or select one that’s focused on a specific type of investment. Real estate mutual funds restrict their activity to property trading and other related businesses, which means that they will benefit from the trend of profitability in the sector.

When you’re making a decision as to which fund to put your money into, consider its track record and methodology. Just because two funds style themselves as real estate mutual funds does not mean that they have the same investment rules. Find one that has consistently made a profit and whose investment styles you’re confident in. Mind the fees too – lower is better, but be sure you’re not sacrificing quality.

2. Real Estate Investment Trusts

These are similar to real estate mutual funds, with the primary difference being the degree of control an individual investor has. If you’re a hands-on investor, you should consider REITs. They have shares you can buy as many or as few of as you like, based on your forecast of their performance.

Mutual funds invest in REITs as part of their overall portfolios, but the decisions regarding which investments to make will be left in the hands of fund managers. Stick to publicly traded REITs; the private ones might promise better returns, but there’s much less oversight and thus more risk.

3. Short-Term Rentals

You knew this was coming, right? Rental property has always been one of the surefire ways to earn money in real estate, as long as you get the fundamentals right. Whether you’re constructing homes or renovating, renting out your property will bring in a steady income that you can re-invest into the business or use for other purposes.

Nowadays, the traditional rental model is still workable, but is taking a backseat compared to short-term rental services like  Airbnb. You can often charge a premium, especially if your property is in a vacation destination. “The good thing is that you can hire a property manager to handle all aspects of the process for you,” according to Morgan Akchehirlian, CEO of Co-Host Market. “There is a ton of opportunity in short-term rentals, and I believe that once people see them, they are going to leap at them.”

4. Investments in Real-Estate Focused Companies

As they say, sometimes the people who make the most money are not the miners, but the traders selling pickaxes. For instance, many startups are using AI, machine learning and other frontline technologies to provide services to real estate companies, homeowners and other stakeholders — and making a killing while doing it.

If you have an idea for a company in the real estate sphere, now is a good time to launch it. You can also go the indirect route by investing in a promising company. As always, do your due diligence and ensure that the business model is workable and likely to provide good returns before you put your money, time and effort in.

5. Real Estate Notes

In essence, this is you buying up a debt that’s owed by a homeowner and then collecting on it. Since these are usually sold on distressed properties in which there has been a default in payment, you can likely buy notes for a deeply discounted price. The options are then to either foreclose or work with the homeowner to restructure the payments.

Investors focused on quick, high profits can take the shorter route and just foreclose (in compliance with the contracts and relevant laws and regulations), but many people also take the longer view and focus on restructuring the debt in a way that’ll be more convenient for the homeowner to discharge. This route might take longer and not yield quite as much profit, but it’s more stable and would also bring the benefit of knowing you’re helping people in need while you make invest and earn.

On the whole, entrepreneurs and investors would do well to look toward real estate in the coming year. The market has been growing, and it doesn’t look ready to stop anytime soon. As always, due diligence is crucial to keeping your capital safe, ensuring you earn profits and keeping yourself clear of dispute and legal issues. Leverage all your personal business experiences to build the company you’ve always wanted to work for.
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Pritom Das Guest Writer Founder/CEO of TravelerPlus November 20, 2019

Morning Routines Will Make You Happier, Healthier and More Productive

Start your morning off right with these simple but effective routines.

Of all the different things you can try to improve your productivity, a morning routine is one of the most effective.

There are a few reasons why morning routines are so useful. The first is obvious to anyone who has ever procrastinated, just getting started is often the hardest part. If you can start out with the right momentum towards your goals, you’ll avoid wrestling with yourself in the morning to get started.

The second is that the morning, particularly before the workday officially begins, is a quiet time with fewer social obligations. For many of us, the rest of the day can present a chaotic, ever-changing blast of responsibilities, urgent errands and unexpected interruptions. The morning, in contrast, is often the most consistent part of your day.

Morning routines also set the tone for your upcoming day. Do you want your workday to begin quiet and contemplative? With vigorous exercise? Silent meditation? Creative and productive? Your morning habit can push you along a current which will carry throughout the morning and allow you to maximize whatever aspect of your personality you want to be most important.

In this article, I’d like to explore a few different morning routines you can try. But first, let’s talk about what comes before the morning ritual: sleep.

When Should You Wake Up? How Much Sleep Should You Get?

When you talk about productivity, there seems to be two camps. Some argue in favor of waking up extremely early to maximize those early-morning hours. Others say getting enough sleep needs to be the priority. If you can’t go to bed by 8pm, you should wake up only after you’ve gotten 7-8 hours of sleep.

I believe the scientific case is fairly clear: when it comes to productivity, getting enough sleep is essential.

A lack of sleep causes enormous cognitive declines, it impacts your ability to form memories, and may even increase the risk of certain diseases (including cancer). Research indicates that 7-8 hours per day is a nearly universal requirement, so those who claim to get by on four or six hours per night might be kidding themselves.

Worse, the cognitive impairment of a lack of sleep can accumulate, even if you think it has leveled off. Any morning routine you develop needs to accommodate your sleeping rhythms.

Key Lesson: Your morning routine should allow you enough sleep. Pick a time you can wake up consistently and also get 7-8 hours of sleep on a normal night.

Creating the Perfect Morning Routine

I’ve experimented with a ton of different morning routines. Waking up super early, waking up without an alarm, exercise, learning, work and many others.

In all these different experiments, I’ve found that there isn’t one perfect routine that will make you rich, ripped and happy overnight. Instead, there’s different routines for different purposes, and so I tend to think about my routines as trying to match my most important goals of that moment.

If I’m really focusing on health and fitness, starting with exercise or putting in the time to eat a healthy breakfast might go first. If I’m working like crazy, getting straight to work on my most important tasks may be better than cluttering up my morning with different tasks. Different goals, different routines.

Therefore, instead of suggesting one routine, I want to suggest six. These different routines have all served me during different parts of my life, and so you can see which feels like the best fit for you.

The Six Key Morning Routines

1. Exercise and Energy

This routine is simple: right when you wake up you go and exercise. Before eating breakfast, checking your phone and emails or watching some television—go out and move.

I’ve done this before with running, swimming and even just push-ups.

The first benefit of this is that it puts fitness in that all-important first slot of the day. If you’ve struggled with staying on a regular exercise schedule in the past, this can be a good way to make sure it is a priority.

Second, this habit can wake you up. Exercise can keep you alert and mentally functioning at your prime, when a coffee may only be able to slightly prolong your later-day crash.

Recommended for: If you struggle with grogginess, you’ve had a hard time fitting exercise into your schedule and if you want to make fitness your top priority.

2. Meditation and Stillness

Contrary to the first one, this starts with daily meditation. I’ve done this before with 30-minute meditation periods.

It’s important to do seated meditation and not do so lying down in your bed, or you’ll be likely to fall back asleep. I sit on the floor, not a chair, which is not terribly uncomfortable, but also a position that requires enough muscle tension that I’m unlikely to fall asleep.

I’ve found this helpful because it tends to leave me calm and focused. Useful if you expect to have stressful days ahead to start yourself off with a quiet mind.

I also find that one of the challenges of grogginess is keeping your eyes open. Meditation allows your mind to wake up without strain so by the time you hear the final gong you’re fully awake.

Recommended for: If you want to be calm and less anxious in your day, if you’ve wanted to make meditation a priority but haven’t had time, as an alternative if you don’t like exercise first thing in the morning.

3. Get to Work!

The key to productivity is just doing the work. This routine underscores this by making getting some work done your first priority, so that your first break is the chance to eat breakfast, shower, shave and do the normal routine you’d do in the morning.

I did this during the MIT Challenge. I even have old schedules I wrote on paper which had “6:55 – Wake Up,” “7:00 – Start studying,” written on them. I’d wake up, and in five minutes I’d be doing practice questions, listening to the next lecture or working on a programming assignment. Only after I did 30-60 minutes of this would I take a break to “get ready” to start my day.

This works because it not only maximizes your time, it shifts your productivity much earlier. You finish much earlier in the day and can enjoy a less cluttered evening without guilt that you’re slacking.

The second benefit is that you get to take a break when you need it. Too many people take their break before starting, so that when they have to work they can’t take a pause for fear of not having enough time to finish.

Recommended for: If you have important goals and projects that take a lot of time. If you expect to be working a lot and you’re worried you won’t have time to do everything.

4. Learning First

When I was planning my year-long trip to learn four different languages, the early morning was the only time my roommate (who went with me on the trip) and I had to do some pre-travel practice. 

Therefore, we woke up at 6am each day and did a half-hour of Pimsleur lessons before he got ready to go to work and I got up to start my day.

In other times I’ve done learning goals where I’ve read books, watched lectures, practiced skills or studied first thing. This is often useful for the same reason it’s useful for meditation and exercise: it puts something you struggle to schedule first thing in your day, so you won’t forget it.

Recommended for: When you want to work on an important learning goal but never find time.

5. Plan Your Day

Mental rehearsal is a key strategy elite athletes use to ensure performance. By imagining each movement vividly, they can perform better under pressure when the big event comes.

You can exploit a similar impact by planning out your day in the morning. Don’t just jot down some to-do items, but actually imagine working on them. What will be the complications? Where will you have gaps in your schedule that need filling? What will you need to focus on?

Doing this planning first thing in the morning can be a good way to prime your day for success.

Recommended for: If you have a hectic, busy schedule. If you want to focus your mind on work and productivity, but can’t start working right away.

6. Make Your Bed

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Making your bed, brushing your teeth, showering, shaving, doing makeup, pressing your clothes and more are all little tasks that can put you in good form for the rest of your day. Such morning routines were pretty much expected a generation or two ago, but nowadays many people skip out on some of these steps as the culture has become looser.

An advantage of this more traditional routine is that in putting your house and appearance in order, you put your mind in order as well. As one admiral William H. McRaven put it, “if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

This approach can be taken on its own, or it can be synced up with one of the other two—say fifteen minutes for some key preparation activities followed by exercise, work or study.

Recommended for: Creating a sense of order and dignity in your day. Giving you a foundation of meticulousness and conscientiousness to approach your later tasks.

Add an Evening Routine

Morning routines are great for managing the first part of your day, but they also depend crucially on an evening routine to complement them. If you do decide to aim for an early rising schedule, you need an early-to-sleep routine to match it. Similarly, if you plan to work or learn first thing in the morning, you should plan out your day the night before so you know what to work on.

A good evening routine should minimize blue light (a good rule is to have no screens after 9pm), so that the melatonin circuit that controls your circadian rhythm can start to adjust for better sleep.

I often like to plan out my day ahead of time and either read a book or listen to an audiobook with the lights out for 20-30 minutes before sleeping to make it easier to doze off.

Matched to your goals a good routine is the foundation for success. It can help you become more productive, healthier and happier by tweaking at one of the most consistent and important points in the day.

This article was originally published on March 12, 2019, by Scott Young, and is republished here with permission.

Questions to Ask Before Deciding on a Real Estate Agent

 

Roughly 5 million residential real estate transactions were conducted in 2014. Of those, nearly 87 percent involved real estate agents, who can help both buyers and sellers of residential properties save time and maximize the value of their home. Before deciding which real estate agent might be the best fit for your needs, you might want to ask yourself—or your agent—the following questions.

1. ARE THEY LICENSED?

Real estate agents licensed by state property boards are usually expected to complete regular training courses and abide by board-approved practices. Agents affiliated with the National Association of Realtors (NAR) are also bound by the organization’s Code of Ethics, which are intended to make sure real estate agents follow NAR’s approved protocols for home sales.

2. HOW MANY HOMES HAVE THEY SOLD IN YOUR AREA?

Because neighborhoods often have their own unique traits when it comes to advertising benefits like school districts and property values, you’ll want an agent who has successfully completed several transactions in the area you’re considering. For sellers, an agent with experience in the local market will know how best to appeal to buyers most likely to complete a sale.

3. HAVE YOU VISITED AN OPEN HOUSE THEY ARRANGED?

One of the better ways to assess an agent’s ability to move a property is to visit an open house to see how they handle prospective buyers. An impressive presentation means they’re likely to devote a similar amount of energy to your own transaction.

4. HAVE THEY WON ANY AWARDS?

While it’s not necessary that an agent’s office be packed with trophies, third-party recognition for outstanding sales or customer service can be a good sign that the agent is proactive and attentive to their client’s needs.

5. DO THEY HAVE THE RIGHT CREDENTIALS?

Agents often come with designations that might resemble a word jumble until you get familiar with details. An Accredited Buyer Representative has had additional training in representing those in the market for a home; a Seniors Real Estate Specialist has had experience working with buyers over the age of 50. Get to know an agent’s abbreviations and find out if they specialize in your situation.

6. HAVE THEY SOLD A HOUSE SIMILAR TO YOURS ALREADY?

As a buyer, you’ll want an agent familiar with the specific type of home sale you’re interested in. That means experience in navigating the details of federal loan programs, dealing with military financing, or having sold more residential properties than commercial. Buyers and sellers of private properties can also have a variety of special interests depending on the type of home being targeted. Rural homes, for example, have different details to work through compared to historic properties or condominiums. You’ll want an agent who has experience dealing with your specific case needs.

7. HOW MUCH DO THEY COST?

Agents typically receive a percentage of the sale price from the seller. Ask for specific amounts (typically three to seven percent), along with other closing costs. Sellers should also know whether an agent charges a fee for things like staging (dressing the home for viewing), photography, and other attempts to stand out in the market.

8. DO THEY HAVE REFERENCES?

Hiring an agent should be like hiring any other employee: You’ll want to know that they have gotten the job done previously. While you can look at online reviews, it shouldn’t be a problem for an agent to provide contact information for buyers or sellers they’ve worked with so you can benefit from their perspective.

9. WILL IT BE A TEAM EFFORT?

Keeping homes visible in the market, analyzing new listings, and communicating to clients requires a lot of leg work, so many agents have workers who assist them in keeping on top of their workload. At the same time, you don’t want an agent who will use assistants to pass along information. Make sure the agent will make keeping you informed their first priority.

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Real Estate Opportunity of the Week

A Decommissioned Nuclear Missile Site

A rusted Titan II missile silo in Arizona could be yours for $395,000. Missile not included.

What is it? A “BOLD opportunity” to live in a rusting decommissioned nuclear missile silo in the middle of Arizona sitting on more than 12 acres of land, according to the listing. “This property was once one of the most top secret of government assets and is now ready to fulfill a new mission,” the listing says. “That mission is for you to define amongst the limitless scenarios. Secure storage facility? Underground bunker? Remarkable residence—literally living down under?” Titan II missile not included.

Image: Zillow

Where is it? In pristine Catalina, Arizona. Population: 7,025. Situated just off Pinal Pioneer Parkway, this missile silo is just a 90 minute drive to Tucson. If the Old Pueblo isn’t your scene, then an hour drive north will take you to Phoenix, the capital of Arizona. That might sound like a haul, but the listing insists the silo is private yet not too remote. “Quick easy access to Tucson and just 20 minutes for supplies,” the listing states.

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What is there to do locally?

So much. A quick drive north will take you to the the majestic Superstition Mountains, the southern tip of a massive national park complex that includes several National Forests and Humphrey’s Peak. Just south of the silo are the McFarland State Historic Park and the Pinal County Historical Museum.

Alright, how much are they asking? This piece of Cold War history can be yours for just $395,000. Remember, that includes both the decommissioned silo and the surrounding 12 acre parcel. Built mostly in the 1960s, America’s missile silos were an answer to a nasty nuclear problem. After the end of World War II, it seemed like a real possibility that America would fight a war with the Soviet Union and that it would be nuclear. To make sure Russia couldn’t attack without immediate retaliation, America maintained a fleet of nuclear-armed bombers stationed across the globe, ready to strike Moscow 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Many of the pilots took speed to get through their shifts. Bombs were lost. Planes crashed, and the nukes contaminated parts of Europe.

Screengrab: Zillow

America needed a way to nuke anyone it wanted, at any time, without sending its flyboys into the air jacked up on amphetamine while carrying nuclear bombs. So, throughout the rest of the Cold War, the Pentagon constructed missile silos across the less populated states of the union. These bunkers, which still exist today, are called “nuclear sponges” because Cold War strategists thought the silos would absorb the bulk of Russian nukes.

Now, you can live in one!

Quibi is a built-for-millennials streaming service!

If Hollywood and Silicon Valley created a baby, they might call it Quibi.

At least, that’s how veteran film mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and tech executive Meg Whitman view their fledgling creation.

Quibi, a Hollywood-based streaming company that stands for “quick bites” of video, plans to take new, premium films shot by award-winning directors like Steven Spielberg and Catherine Hardwicke and present them in short episodic chapters about 10 minutes long. The twist: the stories will be developed exclusively for viewing on mobile phones.

The content will be distributed through a new mobile app, designed by a tech team that has consulted with Hollywood creators to make an interface that is appealing to filmmakers and elusive younger audiences.

“What we say internally is we’d like to be the quality of HBO and offer customers the convenience of Spotify,” Whitman said in an interview from Quibi’s Hollywood office. “We’re not Facebook Watch. We’re not Snapchat. We’re not Instagram TV. We’re not YouTube. We’re Quibi, and it’s not denigrating those platforms at all … but we’re staking out a premium position relative to those.”

In the last year, Quibi has made waves after raising $1 billion in financing from Disney, WarnerMedia, and other major studios and investors, gone on a hiring spree and released a flurry of announcements for upcoming projects with prominent filmmakers.

To hear Katzenberg tell it, Quibi is playing a pioneering role in crafting a new form of storytelling that combines elements of feature film storytelling and episodic television.

“What we’re doing is just merging those two ideas together to what we hope is the third generation of film narrative,” Katzenberg said.

But Quibi, which will charge about $5 a month with ads and $8 without ads, will face an increasingly crowded video streaming market when it launches next April. Already, there are large subscription platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, as well as free, mostly ad-supported sites like YouTube and Facebook.

“I do believe there is a legitimate audience for it,” said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a San Jose-based market research firm. “They will be challenged by the subscription model given that (consumers) already have so many subscriptions for content now.”

The company brings together two heavyweights in entertainment and tech — 68-year-old Katzenberg and Whitman, who turns 63 on Sunday.

In many ways, the pair are opposites. Whitman, the company’s CEO, is a former Republican candidate for governor, with a track record of leading major Silicon Valley tech companies like online auction site eBay and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Katzenberg, Quibi’s chairman and a major Democratic Party fundraiser, rose up the ranks in Hollywood. After leading a revival of Disney’s animation studio, he built DreamWorks Animation into an industry juggernaut with such hits as “Shrek,” “Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda.” (He sold the animation studio in 2016 to Comcast for $3.8 billion.)

The seed of the Whitman-Katzenberg partnership began with a phone call. Whitman had just announced she was stepping down as chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise in 2017 when Katzenberg called and asked what she was doing that night. She guessed correctly that she would be having dinner with him. The mogul flew to the San Francisco Bay Area, and the two met to discuss what would become Quibi.

Katzenberg handles the content side of the business, while Whitman runs the company, including overseeing the product and engineering teams, as well as marketing and advertising.

“We cannot be more different from each other, and the fact that we could find a good partnership in that is now turning out to be the superpower in it,” Katzenberg said. “For me, I always have big plans and lots of dreams and, you know, somewhat impractical, and Meg is buttoned-down, ‘Let’s have this plan, let’s figure out this day everything that is going to go wrong’ kind of person,” he said.

Each cites different reasons for why Quibi will succeed. Whitman points to eMarketer research that shows a steady rise in the average amount of time consumers spend daily watching video on their mobile devices: In 2018, it was 60 minutes, up from six minutes in 2012.

“Increasingly people are watching on their phones, but during the day most people don’t have an hour to sit and watch something on TV,” Whitman said. “The ability to see a great show in a series of 10 chapters — people are going to find that super interesting.”

Katzenberg touts his instinct and track record of providing what audiences want even before they know it.

“I’ve spent my life trying to find stories that you will like,” Katzenberg said. “If I asked if you wanted to see a big movie about a big green ogre named Shrek, you would certainly say, ‘I don’t think so.’”

The duo collaborate daily and don’t always agree. In its original plan, Quibi had considered mining and monetizing data, Katzenberg said. When Whitman looked at the plan, she disagreed with that idea.

“It’s just on the wrong side of history,” Whitman said. “It’s not consistent with our brand and what consumers expect today. We zeroed out that revenue line.”

Quibi’s target audience is people ages 25 to 35, and its larger demographic could include people ages 18 to 44. The start-up is focused on providing videos for mobile phones from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Those videos are separated into three categories: long-form narratives distributed to consumers in short chapters; alternative content, which includes reality, documentaries and food shows, and so-called Daily Essentials, which include daily news such as morning and evening shows from NBC News that target millennials.

Quibi said it plans to make money through subscriptions and ad revenue (executives declined to disclose projections). The company said in its first year it will have an ad inventory worth $150 million and that such brands as Google, Walmart and Proctor & Gamble have signed on. The ads will appear in 6-, 10- and 15-second pre-roll ads before Quibi videos and in other formats. Whitman believes that about 75% of Quibi customers will opt for the $5 monthly subscription with ads.

Much of the money Quibi has raised has gone toward buying content and marketing. The company may raise $500 million more in investment in the fall, Whitman said.

The company plans to amass more than 7,000 pieces of content in its first year. Among the upcoming projects is a modern take on the 2003 romantic comedy “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” which is in development with Paramount TV. Quibi has also lined up major filmmakers including directors Antoine Fuqua, Guillermo del Toro and Sam Raimi.

Filmmakers working with Quibi said the platform gives them more tools to lure audiences, such as the use of ring tones and the ability to have content appear at certain times of the day.

For example, Spielberg wanted his scary series, “Spielberg’s After Dark,” to appear in the evening, so Quibi’s team arranged for his episodes to not be shown on the platform until the sun goes down. Quibi users can also view the videos vertically or horizontally by changing how they hold their phones, which opens the possibilities for filmmakers to potentially change the viewer’s perspective based on how they are viewing the content.

Veena Sud, the showrunner for AMC’s crime drama “The Killing,” is working on a Quibi series called “The Stranger,” a thriller about a ride-hailing driver named Clare whose life is in danger after she picks up a sociopath. The drama follows Clare over 12 hours as she seeks safety. Viewers watch a dozen 10-minute episodes that air one hour later each night.

If viewers choose to like the series on the app, they’ll be notified of a new episode with the same creepy ring tone heard on Clare’s cellphone when she receives a text from the sociopath, Sud said.

“Unlike the traditional screens that we watch TV shows and movies on, this is the screen that is attached to most of our hands 24/7,” said Sud. Quibi allows filmmakers to “break every single wall between you and the audience and to draw your viewer out of passivity into actually being part of the story.”

But there are challenges to writing a story when it’s told in 10-minute chapters, Sud said.

“There can only be so much before it feels really repetitive,” Sud said. “Because there are so many very dramatic episode ends, I had to mix that with other types of questions about who the hell this guy is.”

Hardwicke, whose credits include the first “Twilight” film, said she was impressed at the level of collaboration creatives and techies have at Quibi.

“It just feels like ‘Wow, there are so many cool possibilities,’” Hardwicke said. “They don’t want to say no. They say, ‘Let’s try it.’ ”

Unlike other platforms, Quibi offers a premium price for content and gives creators more flexibility. The start-up is willing to pay up to $6 million an hour for long-form narrative content.

Another appealing feature for creators is they get to own the content after seven years, during which Quibi has the exclusive license. After two years, creators can take that content, put it in a longer form such as a movie and shop it elsewhere.

But some question whether there’s enough demand among millennials to watch premium videos on their smartphones.

YouTube recently changed its strategy for its premium scripted content, with plans to move programs like “Cobra Kai,” a scripted series based on the popular “Karate Kid” movies, out from behind a paywall and instead support them with ads.

Many subscribers of streaming platforms like Netflix also choose to view programs on their TVs, rather than on their smaller smartphone screens. Other platforms, like Verizon’s go90, failed in generating a large enough audience for shows created for mobile viewing.

“The real test comes once the service is launched and socialized with the world of on-the-go customers,” said Jason Squire, a professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. “Whether these customers will create a loyalty to any number of their shows or otherwise return to the site consistently — that is the key.”

But Katzenberg says he doesn’t need to get all smartphone users to pay for Quibi. If he got just 3% of the 2.5 billion smartphone users worldwide, “Quibi would be a massive success,” he said.

Quibi, which occupies two floors of a modern office building in Hollywood, looks like a typical tech start-up with an open floor plan. Whitman and Katzenberg don’t have offices and sit in the same space as their roughly 160 employees. Employees have their own lockers. Jars filled with various candies line the wall in the lobby.

The executives take pride in building a diverse company of employees drawn from the worlds of tech and entertainment. The company, which is 52% female, has employees who have worked at companies including Google, CBS, Spotify, Hulu, Facebook and Netflix.

“We have created something really powerful in bringing both the entertainment competency and technology competency together,” said Jim O’Gorman, Quibi’s head of talent and organization.

Katzenberg and Whitman said they are ready for any challenges and will face them together.

“We’re not marking our territory,” Whitman said. “We’ve done that.”

Katzenberg agrees, adding they both have marked enough territory in their lives.

“Here is the single thing above all else that bonds us and binds us together: We have a bottomless well of the need to win and whatever it takes to win,” Katzenberg said. “We just want to win. Big.”

Wendy Lee covers digital media for the Los Angeles Times’ Company Town team.

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7 Best Things About Buying A House In The Fall

 

For the first time in recent history, October surpassed June as the most popular month to get married. And these autumn-loving brides may be on to something: Although the spring months are notoriously the best time to buy real estate (as well as have a wedding), fall may be the new ideal season to buy a home.

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One obvious reason is that it’s easier to get from open house to open house without questioning if you’ll need an AC repair ASAP upon moving into that home for sale in Phoenix, AZ. Also, families on a mission to move into a new home before school starts are out of the picture. Besides these two more obvious reasons, here are seven expert insights on why you should consider a fall real estate purchase.

1. There’s less competition

Competition for houses drops off in the fall, a time many people consider to be off-season in real estate. But there are still homes for sale — and in some cases, there’s just as much inventory as there was during the spring and summer. “[Fall] means new inventory and re positioned old inventory that did not sell in the prime season,” says Wesley Stanton, a New York, NY, agent with The Stanton Hoch Team.

This puts you in a great position to negotiate. “Fall home buyers should consider [making] lowball offers, followed by more aggressive negotiation,” says Brian Davis, a real estate investor and director of education at Spark Rental. Davis points out that many sellers are very motivated to sell before the holidays. If possible, buyers should let these sellers know that they can close before Thanksgiving or before the school winter break.

2. Sellers are worn-out

Some sellers who put their homes on the market during the prime selling times of spring and summer might have been a tad overconfident by listing their homes for more than buyers were willing to spend. After months of no action, these sellers are often ready to make a deal. “Sellers who were unrealistic earlier in the year about price will now be more willing to reduce the price come fall,” says Thomas Miller, a Washington, DC, real estate agent. “Because there [are fewer buyers] and because the sellers are now eager to sell, they are more inclined to take the low offer than wait another six months for spring to come around.”
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3. Sellers are serious

Not all homes on the market in fall are summer leftovers. Some people need to sell in the fall because the timing is right. Maybe they were having a home built, and it’s now ready. Maybe they need to move because of a job. “The sellers with houses on the market in the fall tend to be serious,” says Sam Heskel, president of Nadlan Valuation, an appraisal management company in Brooklyn, NY. “That means sellers could be more open to negotiating and accepting a lower offer.”

4. You can take advantage of tax breaks

First-time home buyers, take note: Although you can’t escape paying income tax, you can make a dent in what you owe when you become a homeowner. “Property tax and mortgage interest are both deductions you can take for your whole year’s worth of income, even if you closed on your home in December,” says David Hryck, a New York, NY tax adviser, lawyer, and personal finance expert. “Any payments that are made prior to the closing of the loan are tax-deductible. This can make a serious difference in the amount you owe the government at the end of the year.”

5. Fall is a safer time of year

Did you know that burglars have peak seasons? They do, says Sarah Brown, a home safety expert for SafeWise.com. “July and August are prime months for burglaries to take place,” she says. “Waiting until the fall [to buy] gives you an advantage when learning about a home and the neighborhood.” You’ll be settled in your home and can take precautions — like setting up that new alarm system — before the next burglary season rolls around. Note: Check Trulia’s local maps with the crime filter before you buy.

6. You’re the center of attention

Because spring and summer are ideal times to buy a home, real estate agents are usually busier then. And that could mean you might not always get the attention you want. This is also true for other professionals you’re working with to buy a house. “Service providers, such as mortgage lenders and title companies, are moving out of the summertime sales swamp and can often respond more quickly,” says John Lazenby, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association in Orlando, FL.

The same goes for movers. “Because summer is the peak moving season, people often experience more delays and service issues, such as moving companies reaching capacity and running out of trucks to pick up shipments,” says Jack Griffin, president and chief operating officer of Atlas World Group. “The probability of experiencing a delay goes way down in the fall season.”

7. You can take advantage of end-of-year sales to outfit your home

There are bound to be improvements you’ll want to make after buying a house. You’ll also probably need to buy items to maintain your home, and if appliances weren’t part of the deal, you’ll need those too. Wouldn’t it be great to coordinate your home purchase with sales on items you’ll need? According to Consumer Reports, the calendar determines when it’s a good time to buy all sorts of consumer goods. In particular, September is a great time for buying carpet and paint. October means lawn mowers go on sale, and appliances and cookware are cheaper in November.

Did you buy your home in the fall? Would you recommend buying in the fall real estate market? Let us know in the comments.

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Setting Priorities In A Senior’s Move

Tips For Whittling Down The Options To Find The Perfect Spot

Trying to decide where to live during one’s golden years can be a difficult process. There are many different types of options available and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. When a senior is trying to choose a new place where they will spend their remaining years, it can be helpful to work through their priorities in relation to the new home.

 

Evaluate the reasons for the move and the priorities in a new home

ABC News shares that there are many reasons why seniors consider downsizing in their later years. This type of change may be due to the death of a spouse, financial challenges, or health concerns, or it may be time to retire and free up money to travel. Whenever possible, it is best to work up to a big move like this, as rushing into a relocation can lead to regrets.

Money Sense explains that many older adults are downsizing so they can reduce their expenses or boost their nest eggs, so determine a realistic budget and stick to it. Don’t be distracted by amenities available in a community if the overall cost would cause a financial strain, as this type of stress in one’s later years can be quite detrimental.

Next, do some thinking about how much space is needed. Will you have guests staying over frequently or will you be on your own most of the time? Do you need some unfinished storage space for belongings or will you be able to pare things down sufficiently to transition to a smaller home?

Location and maintenance work are key factors, too

Apartment Guide notes that you will also want to consider whether living in a maintenance-free home is something you want. Seniors often want to let go of any responsibilities regarding snow removal, lawn care, or exterior home repairs, so focusing on maintenance-free living can narrow your options quickly.

Another key priority for many seniors related to the location of the new home. If one needs to have easy access to a specific medical facility, care center, or shopping area, that needs to be factored in during the search. Location also plays a role when a senior depends on extended family for help, wants to be by grandchildren, or hopes to stay near neighbors or friends they have had for years.

Get organized early for a smooth transition

As the search for a new home plays out, start planning for the move itself. Staying organized and starting early are the best ways to ensure a smooth transition for your senior. Keep a notebook containing all of the information related to the move, including an inventory list of what will go to the new home, so that everything is maintained in one spot.

Then, work consistently on purging unwanted or unneeded items. Help your senior decide what will fit in the new place and what can be sold or donated, tackling one small area at a time. Keep similar items together while packing and label or color code all of your boxes to speed up the unpacking on the other end of the move.

Moving in one’s later years is rarely an easy decision. Get organized early on so you can help your senior focus on their best options and keep the move progressing smoothly. Consider factors such as a senior’s financial picture, their reasons for downsizing, and the ideal location of their new place so they can ultimately settle in the perfect spot to enjoy their golden years.

 

Jim Vogel vogel[email protected]

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Selling Your Home for Maximum Value

HomeChecklistSelling a home is almost as exciting and nerve-wracking as buying your first property. Fortunately, if you work with an experienced real estate agent and take the time to prepare your home, it will sell faster (and most likely net you an excellent price.)

Don’t underestimate the power of home improvement projects and home staging—these things can amp up your home’s appeal inside and out, and have buyers fighting to make an offer. Preparing your home for the market is a chance to make money and gain experience—take advantage of this opportunity by working hard.

Home Improvement Projects and Repairs

Small repairs and upgrades often have the biggest impact. Buyers want a home that is move-in ready. Minor things like burned-out lights, broken windows and cracked pavement detract from a home’s perceived value. Make sure everything is in good working order, and then tackle the upgrades. With a return on investment of 130 percent, replacing your front door is the top improvement.

If you’ve lived in your house for years, you probably have a few projects that have been on your to-do list forever. Some of these may be good choices, but others may be prohibitively expensive—projects that have excellent returns share these traits, as they are affordable and reduce maintenance requirements. They improve efficiency, and they address problems.

Improvements for Kitchens and Baths

The kitchen and the bathroom are prime candidates for remodeling, but you might be able to get away with less—replacing drawer handles and knobs is an excellent step. You may also want to repaint or refinish drab cabinets if they are structurally sound. Purchasing a new fridge or oven is also a nice step, as a premium appliance can give a room a measure of quality.

Installing modern light fixtures is another winning effort. In the bathroom, neutral colors create a classic look. Install a new shower head, and make sure the floor and shower itself are in good condition. Replace the caulk. Review thishome improvement guide to see which projects are worth the work.

What about Paint?

Fresh paint is one of the most welcome and recommended improvements if you’re selling your home. This project is simple and inexpensive. With good preparation, paint can cover minor blemishes and nicks—it can also conceal the bold paint in a child’s bedroom (buyers generally prefer neutral colors). You can maximize your return and achieve professional results by completing appropriate prep work, masking the trim, spackling holes and sanding the base coat. Low-VOC paint is an excellent choice and can be a selling point when you’re marketing your home.

Outdoor Upgrades

Exterior improvements are extremely beneficial for improving your home’s market value. Purchase new house numbers, replace broken or drafty windows, or install a new garage door. Invest in new siding, or make sure that your existing siding is free from mildew and stains. If you want to make a more major improvement, build a deck or patio. These functional areas will help buyers visualize a new life in a new home.

Landscaping for Curb Appeal

Landscaping can increase your home’s curb appeal and value considerably—the challenge is knowing where to start. First, how does your landscaping compare to other homes in the neighborhood? Is it lagging behind, or is it leading the way? Second, if your home has overgrown landscaping, it should be trimmed back, or even removed completely. Dying, neglected or overgrown plants will decrease your curb appeal. However, if you add a variety of landscape plants, your home’s value can increase by as much as 10 percent. You can easily double the money spent on plants, mulch and other supplies.

If you spend just 2 percent of your home’s estimated value on landscaping, you’ll see major returns. A study by Virginia Tech found that adding landscaping increased the value of a $150,000 home by more than $8,000. The sophistication of the design, the diversity of the plants and the size of the specimens are generally the most important aspects.

If you’re getting ready to sell, you should have about two months to make changes to your landscaping—a bag of lawn fertilizer and a load of mulch are ideal for sprucing up a home quickly. Outdoor furniture, potted plants and seasonal flowers are excellent choices for improving the appearance of your yard, and adding value to your home.

The Best Times of the Year to Sell

You’ve worked hard to spruce up your landscaping, and you want buyers to see the result. However, this might be impossible if your yard is covered by a foot of snow. Timing a sale is tricky, and it can’t always be helped, but you can maximize your returns by understanding what drives the market. Traditionally, spring has been the best time to sell, though this may not be the same in every case.

Buyers are active, and families want to get their kids settled before school starts. Approximately 60 percent of families who move do so in the summer, which shows how many homes sell in the spring. However, this trend is slowly changing. If you aren’t ready to list in the spring, you still have a good chance to profit—new data shows that November is one of the hottest months for home sales. But why?

Today, more than half of home buyers are retirees, single millennials, and couples without children. The school calendar doesn’t affect these individuals—in fact, listing in the autumn and winter is advantageous, because the housing supply is lower. It becomes a seller’s market!

As a general rule, homes listed in the fall and winter are 10 percent more likely to sell for the listing price, and to sell within six months. Don’t fear the holiday season either! If you can handle showings during this hectic time of year, feel free to list your home. Wintertime buyers are often in a hurry to relocate for a job, and thus need a home quickly. If your home is available, they may be willing to pay a premium price.

Staging a Home

Homes that are staged sell faster, and for more money. You could hire a professional, but many of these things can be done on your own (and for a fraction of the cost). Home staging starts with a thorough cleaning—strip waxed floors, shampoo carpets, and make every surface spotless. How much light a home has is also a major selling point.

Wash the drapes, or buy new curtains. Clean the windows and screens to let in more sunlight. Put in high-wattage bulbs that show off your home.

After you’ve cleaned, it’s time to declutter. Remove family photos and keepsakes. Clear out the garage. Donate items that you don’t use. Then, store the rest!

Ideally, your home should be 90 percent packed when it’s time for a showing. Closets and storage spaces are especially important to buyers. Make sure closets are tidy and no more than half full.

Finally, arrange furniture to give each room a distinct purpose. Multi-purpose rooms give buyers a mixed message—it’s better if the buyer imagines a home office in a spare bedroom, rather than seeing a computer desk crammed next to a daybed.

Test your improvements by walking around your home and looking at everything like a buyer would. Staging gives you the power to decide what potential buyers see (and what they don’t see), including your children and your pets. This process starts before you list your home, and continues through the showing. It can be a good idea to brainstorm a variety of home staging ideas in advance.

Aromatherapy for Home Sellers

Staging makes your home look great in listing photos, however, pleasant smells can make your home appealing in person. Before you get out the air freshener, it’s important to remove unwanted odors. Pet odors and cigarette smoke are two of the biggest turnoffs for home buyers. If you have a problem with either, take steps to address these issues early in the process.

Some homes suffer from musty odors. Open the windows regularly to draw in fresh air. Clean the walls, carpets, upholstery and any surfaces that harbor unwanted odors.

Scientists know that olfactory experiences have a great effect on behavior. Neutral and natural scents, such as lavender, orange, lemon and pine, appeal to potential buyers. Avoid overbearing blended fragrances or artificial air fresheners. Studies show that strong scents create a mental disturbance and inhibit the decision-making process that is critical when someone is making the biggest purchase of their life.

Vanilla extract and essential oils are excellent choices for perfuming various areas of your home. You can also boil cinnamon sticks or orange peels about an hour before a showing.

Think seasonally, and consider what fits your home and the buyer. Avoid derisive scents like patchouli, and keep in mind that many people are sensitive to powerful fragrances.

Hiring the Right Realtor

All of your hard work up to this point won’t pay off without an effective real estate agent. The right realtor can make the process of selling your home easy and profitable. It’s tempting to hire the realtor who originally sold you the home or who found the perfect property for a friend, but these choices can prove to be less than ideal.

A selling agent needs to be on top of the market and understand all the nuances of your neighborhood, including the sale prices of comparable homes—pricing a home is an art!

If you start with the right number, you’ll get more offers and still have room to negotiate. If you start too high, your home might sit on the market, face price reductions and eventually sell for less than it would have.

Look for an agent who is experienced and works in your area regularly. You need an accurate market analysis, not an inflated valuation. Here are a few questions to ask to help you find the right realtor.

1. How quickly are your homes selling? How does this compare to the average selling time?

2. Did the homes sell for more or less than the listing price?

3. What will you do to market my home locally and online?

4. How often will you update me on any progress?

5. May I speak to your most recent clients? Ask about the agent’s communication skills, sales strategy and interaction from the listing through the closing.

How well you prepare your home for the market can alter a buyer’s perception and help you get top dollar. Everything you do should send the message that your home is well-maintained and ready for new owners. If you’re preparing to move, you’re probably ready to buy, which means that you should be able to see your home from a buyer’s perspective. These strategies will help you sell your home quickly, and capitalize on its full value.

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