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Make the Front Porch More Welcoming

Make the Front Porch More Welcoming This exterior feature is getting more attention amid the pandemic. Get inspiration for colorful, cozy front stoops. By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Design & Architecture
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Designing the Perfect Pop-Up Office

Designing the Perfect Pop-Up Office Stage extra rooms as workspaces so buyers can see the flexibility of your listing. By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Working With Sellers, Staging, Design Trends
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Standing Against Racial Injustice

We grieve the killing of George Floyd, alongside the Black community, and the world, as we continue to grieve an already too long list of racial injustice victims. These losses are devastatingly painful. We are at a pivotal moment where it is critical that we better understand and appreciate one another, recognize that in our diversity lies strength, and commit to be allies for one another. We understand that navigating the pain, anger, anxiety and fear that the events of recent days have brought forward is tremendously challenging. We also understand that we don’t have all the answers, and frankly, many of us can’t know what it’s like to be faced with systemic racism every day of our lives. But we are committed to moving forward together, providing our employees the resources they need, and being a force for change. At realtor.com, we stand with the Black community, and for the right of every person to be who they are, to be seen, accepted, and supported, in all their uniqueness and significance. We celebrate the many amazing histories and experiences and perspectives we all bring to our work, to our families and our communities. And we all have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to take action to foster empathy, humanity, and philanthropy, both inside and outside our walls.
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Is Now a Good Time to Buy?

With social distancing being an important part of life at the moment and so many parts of the economy suffering the effects of state lockdowns, some are worried about how all of this will affect the housing market. This is especially a concern for those who were hoping to buy a new home and have seen their plans potentially derailed by the pandemic. Is this a good time to consider buying a new home, assuming that it’s even safe to do so? Depending on where you live, the answer may be surprising. It’s a Buyer’s Market in Some Markets (but not everywhere) With the current state of the world, the demand for real estate has dropped significantly in some parts of the US and Canada. This has left many of those who have already listed homes for sale or who were planning to list over the summer in a position where there are far fewer people looking at their properties. For some sellers, this isn’t much of an issue; they can simply wait it out and stick to their previous plans. A lot of sellers don’t have that luxury, though. This creates a buyer’s market where a lot of sellers are willing to consider offers that they wouldn’t have in the past, giving potential buyers a lot more control in the home-buying process.   As the name suggests, it’s always good to buy in a buyer’s market. It isn’t necessarily a great time to list a home for sale, of course, since you’d likely have to settle for a lower offer than you were expecting if you want to move the property. This usually helps to balance out the market, with listing rates slowing down to meet demand until things pick back up again. With all of that said, not every market is experiencing this pandemic the same way.  In fact, many markets remain a seller’s market due to low inventory, mortgage rates, or any number of other local demand characteristics.   Demand Is Staying Low in Most Markets Most of the time, a buyer’s market is caused by shifts in the economy that have people trying to save money; an example of this would be a recession. These economic shifts temporarily reduce the number of people who are willing to take on large debts, creating a glut of sellers trying to entice a smaller pool of buyers. The buyer’s market typically fizzles out once the number of sellers shrinks or the economy stabilizes.   In the current buyer’s market, the economy certainly plays a factor. There is an external factor at play here as well, however: The physical distancing that COVID-19 requires has added additional worry about open houses and other forms of interpersonal contact that are traditional when buying or selling a house. There’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, including how long it will last, so with this external factor and the currently stunted economy we could see demand stay low for longer than you would expect in a buyer’s market situation.   Market Recovery This isn’t to say that the market won’t recover, of course. Some states have already started reopening non-essential businesses and other parts of the economy, and other states have plans to start reopening soon. The economy will likely stay sluggish for a while, but reopening is the first part of recovery. Even the pandemic is becoming something less of a factor as people continue to practice social caution and science continues to work toward treatment and vaccine options. While market recovery may take longer than in the past, a recovery will happen, and the good deals that buyers can find now will become less common as things move forward.   Buying Safe If you do decide to shop for a home in the current market, make sure that you’re smart about it and stay safe. Maintain all physical distancing practices while looking at homes, even if there is only a seller or agent present. Ask whether no-contact options such as virtual tours or virtual closing with digital signage are options, and if touring the property request that any doors or other barriers be opened before you arrive to reduce contact. Wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer and take the same precautions that you would in any other social situation. This may seem excessive for viewing a home, but keep in mind that these practices not only protect you, but also protect the seller and agent as well.
 

New Real Estate Rules Under Social Distancing

Buying or selling a home can be stressful even under ordinary circumstances. Unfortunately, the current state of the world is far from ordinary. The housing market is feeling the crunch, as fewer buyers want to get out and shop for a home, and fewer sellers want to take a risk with selling. This isn’t to say that nobody’s buying and selling, of course; the market is just going through some changes. One of the biggest changes revolves around how buyers and sellers are handling social isolation and social distancing. If you’re thinking of selling, or are in the market to buy, here are a few new “rules” to keep in mind when entering the real estate fray in the era of self-isolation. Increasing Online Presence One of the big changes to the real estate process is an increased dependence on online resources instead of in-person shopping. This includes lots of pictures and videos of properties being posted online, but many sellers are taking things even further than this. Recorded virtual tours, online conferences to allow buyers to ask questions about the property, and even livestream walkthroughs with a seller or agent showing the property are all increasingly popular options to supplement or even replace in-person showings and conferences.   Fewer Open Houses Open houses are a popular way to show off a property to many potential buyers, but in the current crisis these events are a big no-no. In many locales, open houses aren’t even allowed under state and federal guidance. In states where they haven’t been specifically banned, many sellers are still hesitant to hold an event that would bring multiple people into close contact with each other. Online “virtual open house” conferences are popping up as one option to adapt to this, letting multiple potential buyers come together on Zoom or a similar video conference service at the same time to get a better feel for the property that’s being sold.   More One-on-One Time As convenient as online access and virtual tours are during the current isolation period, few if any buyers would sign on the dotted line without getting a chance to see a property in person. To accommodate this, many sellers and agents are meeting with potential buyers by appointment only. This lets a potential buyer get a good look at the property in question while also restricting the size of the meeting as much as possible. Many of these appointments are made with the understanding that if any participant feels the least bit under the weather on the day of the meet-up, then it will need to be rescheduled for another time.   Respecting Social Distancing Even when buyers and sellers do meet up, the process is usually a little different than it used to be. Social distancing rules are usually respected, meaning that everyone involved should stay at least six feet apart at all times to prevent potential infection. Discussions about the property and general Q&As are more likely to occur outdoors in the open air, and any greetings or introductions skip out on traditional handshakes. Masks, gloves, shoe covers and hand sanitizer are commonly available on site, and many sellers go through and open all of the doors and windows to both maximize airflow and to allow interested buyers access to the entire house without having to touch doorknobs or other surfaces in order to see inside.   Closing Remotely Remote closing negotiations are becoming much more common, taking advantage of video conferencing to bring everyone together without actually having to be in the same room. There may be some instances where people have to meet up to actually sign paperwork, but digital signing is more common because it removes that point of contact. Even when people do come together for closing and signing, it’s much more likely that everyone will utilize social distancing and that both parties will use their own pens instead of sharing.
 

Threading the Needle to Flatten the Curve

A lot was happening in mid-March as a result of the growing COVID-19 threat. Our office in Silicon Valley had closed at the start of the month, followed by all of our other offices a week later. Sports leagues were suspending seasons, businesses and schools were shutting down, kids were home indefinitely, and nothing else was certain as we learned what sheltering-in-place truly meant. Everyone was calling it “the new normal.” It is a new approach to life and to community and to work and to family and to socializing — one that nobody was quite prepared for, but one that most people have taken to with commitment and positivity. That is, when we aren’t ugly crying between conference calls or yelling at our apparitional roommate because a dirty dish was left in the bedroom, or because we stress-ate a jumbo bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. (Tip of the hat, Meena Harris.) And with the growing, and emotional, challenges facing our country, I began wondering how we at realtor.com — a leading home search tool, and connection engine between consumers and Realtors — could serve the communities where we live and work. How could we reflect on, and help frame, the new ways that home is perceived and experienced during these unprecedented times?  We were all dealing differently as individuals with how our relationship and connection to home had changed quickly in the wake of this pandemic. I wasn’t sure what could work, if anything would feel right when so many people were hurting, anxious, unwell. But I knew we had to try; we had to think about how we could support all of these emotions and feelings that were shared alongside our family, friends, colleagues and even people we did not know. A team — including members of our creative services organization and our advertising agency —  came up with a range of ideas: some truly remarkable, at a very large scale that would be difficult to pull off with any expediency. But one in particular stood out to us collectively and became an easy choice to pursue: create a “mini-festo” to define what this ‘new normal’ meant to all of us, as home became more than a gathering spot or a place to lay your head.  It was important to us in producing any type of creative work that we also drew attention to, and acknowledged, those groups on the front line who were funding and supporting those most in need. We all know that countless charitable organizations have served the mounting needs of others during this time, and they needed assistance, too. We discovered Feeding America, whose mission is to feed the hungry through a network of 200 local food banks across the country, and we approached our executive leadership team to approve a $100,000 company donation to the charity. With widespread support, our employees were also encouraged to participate in the collective effort and were able to double the amount and impact of any donation they made by way of our one-to-one matching program. And so it was after riffing on the words to define home during this national and global moment of solidarity, and galvanizing around aid for Feeding America, that we took to newspapers to share our “mini-festo” of what home means to us and what has motivated us to stay home. The message was displayed in a full page ad in the leading newspapers of all the metro markets where we have offices, where our employees live and are now also working remotely. And since, we’ve taken our “mini-festo” digital into video format as well.  It was feedback from our employees, along with partners at Feeding America that validated our efforts and reminded me of the impact we were helping to drive. As Rowena Paz Norman, Director of New Partnerships at Feeding America, stated, “This pandemic is creating a food assistance emergency unlike anything we’ve ever seen. In the face of this great challenge, there is a bright spot, created by companies like yours.” It wasn’t easy to get to this point, and I regularly questioned whether our intent would come through. But doing so through such a collaborative effort, to support something so important, made all of this worthwhile. It was humbling and it was thrilling, even with circumspection driving our mission. I have never been prouder to work at realtor.com, as we support Feeding America and as we join a national conversation about what home means, during times of crisis as much as during times of joy. We’ve always been a group of professionals who very much believe in home as the place where we can be our realest selves, and no other experience has reminded us more of the role home plays in all of our lives.  A version of this post originally appeared on Medium where Andrew Strickman shared the full creative strategy the team took for this meaningful effort. Join us in supporting Feeding America and let us know in the comments below, why do you #StayHome?
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Why Copper May Become Your Favorite Metal

Why Copper May Become Your Favorite Metal Copper and its alloy cousins, bronze and brass, are germ-repellant, which means you may want to find more places in the home to add the metals. By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey
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Lost Spring Home-Buying Season: Can you still sell your home this year?

The stay at home orders and social distancing guidelines took effect just as the spring home-buying (and selling) season was getting underway. If you are a homeowner who was considering selling your home this year, you are probably wondering what now? The good news is if you have to sell — people are still buying homes. Real estate professionals and other real estate industry providers, including realtor.com, are quickly adapting to the new normal by making it easier for people to search for a home safely. Here at realtor.com, we’ve added several product enhancements including more virtual and 3D tours and the ability to video chat with an agent. We recently introduced Livestream Open Houses, which enables home shoppers to attend a live, hosted online open house from the comfort of their own home. Although most people still prefer to see a home in person before making a purchase, a recent realtor.com survey found that 24 percent of people would be willing to buy a home sight unseen with the aid of accurate listing data, detailed photos and virtual and live video tours. So while that is all good news for people who have to sell, what if you are one of the many homeowners who thought 2020 would be the year to downsize or take advantage of the low interest rates to move into a bigger home? Does it still make sense to list your home in 2020 or should you wait? June could be the new April Mid-April is typically the best time to list your home for sale — homes listed during this time are likely to get the most views and sell fast. Although we know that’s not likely the case this year, the coronavirus’ overall impact on the U.S. housing market remains to be seen.  The housing market was extremely active prior to the pandemic, and in most markets the number of active home shoppers outnumbered the number of homes for sale. Homes were quickly selling and the median home price was increasing in most markets throughout the country. Many housing economists believe that although the housing market has stalled, we will not see a repeat of the 2008 recession.  The big question is will buyers — who have been sidelined by the stay at home orders and uneconomic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic — come back quickly or remain sidelined? The realtor.com economics team looked at historical listing data to provide insight into what sellers might expect this year. The home-buying season typically follows the school year — many buyers are looking to move into their new home before the start of the new school year. If that remains a key factor this year, there is a chance that June will become the new April — with buyers returning to the market on a condensed timeline and more motivated than before. In this scenario, as a seller, while your window for finding a buyer may be shorter this year, there is a potential you could see more interest and a quicker sale this July and August when home prices typically are at their highest than you might see this spring.  If social distancing measures remain in place later into the year past summer, people who were forced to put their home buying journey on hold may be willing to extend their search into the fall and winter off-season. Additionally, unmet demand from spring and summer could build up over the year and we may see some mini-restart later in the year when the market traditionally cools down.  In both of these scenarios, if you plan to list your home for sale this year, timing will be more critical than ever before. You should prepare now to list so that when the time comes you can do so quickly and capture buyers before they drop out for the season. With that in mind, here’s a few things you can do now: Stay on top of the last real estate news With the situation changing daily, we are all watching and waiting to see how the country emerges from the pandemic. To help you stay on top of what it means from a real estate standpoint, we’ve created a COVID-19 real estate resource center. The resource center, which is updated daily, provides news and advice on how to navigate the market as well as insights from our economics team to help you make informed decisions. With timing being so important, you’ll also want to visit the realtor.com research blog. Here, you’re able to see real estate market trends in your local area. By comparing median listing price and days on market year-over-year, you’ll be able to get a feel for how your market is performing. Make sure the price is right A big part of your decision to sell will be based on answering the question, how much is my home worth? By claiming your home on realtor.com®’s My Home portal, you can get a good ballpark idea of what your home is likely to garner and how it compares to other for-sale homes in your area. Unlike other real estate websites, realtor.com displays three estimated property values as a way to provide more insight into the value of your home. At the end of the day, a local real estate professional will be the best judge of the value of your home. Do what you can to get your home ready for sale now With timing being so important this year, take advantage of the time you are spending at home to ensure that when you are ready to list, your home is ready, too. Here’s a checklist of things to do now and No. 1 on the list brings us to our next tip.  Talk to a real estate professional Although there are many online resources, there is no substitute for the knowledge and experience of a local real estate professional. They know your market and can be the best source of information when it comes to deciding whether to list your home, determining the listing price and advising you on how to get your home ready for sale. Although many of them are practicing social distancing, they are still working and leveraging technology to virtually tour homes, etc. Start looking for your next home Again, the 2020 housing market is different than anything we’ve experienced in the past. If buyers come back into the market looking to move before the start of the school year, you may need to accelerate your plans. In addition to being able to search for homes, see virtual tours, attend live open houses and chat with an agent from the comfort of your home, you can rely on realtor.com to familiarize yourself with neighborhoods, including schools, lifestyle amenities, commute time and noise levels.
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Five Steps for Selling Your Home During a Pandemic

Selling a home is a difficult and multifaceted process which can often take months from start to finish even in the best of times. To make matters more difficult, add a healthy portion of global pandemic with a side of stay at home orders and you might be asking yourself what now? Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of hitting pause on selling their home. Regardless of a global pandemic, the world is still spinning and life, while looking completely different from just a few short months ago, must continue forward. And if you fall into that category, we can help. So grab a pen, flip to a new page in your quarantine journal and get ready to take some notes, because class is in session.  Now before we jump right in, there are a few things to keep in mind:   First, while selling a home during social distancing will require a different approach, real estate has been deemed an essential business in most areas and real estate professionals have quickly responded by adapting new technology focused approaches.  And second, like you, there are many people who will have to move regardless of a pandemic. Whether they accepted a new job, are expecting a child, or already sold their old home, buyers  are out there despite the swirling uncertainty. With concerns about the safety of open houses and showings, selling a home is going to be more difficult, but it’s not impossible. Check out our COVID-19 real estate resource center to see how we’ve made it easier than ever to chat with an agent, view video tours and attend live virtual open houses from the safety of your own home. Our News & Insights team also has published a series of articles on Selling During a Pandemic, which provides a comprehensive breakdown to everything from the getting your home ready to list to striking the right deal despite the pandemic.  Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and jump in.   1. Hire A Real Estate Professional If you’re a frequent reader of our blogs or News & Insights, you’re probably thinking this bit of advice sounds like a broken record. But it’s for good reason. You should always consult a real estate professional when buying or selling a home, regardless of a sweeping global pandemic. For most people, their home is their largest single asset and a real estate professional can act as your sage guide through the ups and downs, and often emotional, sale process. A seller’s agent can help stage the home or suggest how to declutter, take listing photos, provide marketing materials, organize showings and open houses (video or live), prepare documents for closing, etc. Additionally, they have their ears close to the ground and will be able to give you realistic expectations for selling your home during these highly unusual times. Follow this bit of advice and you’re already off to a great start.  2. Consult Your Real Estate Professional About A Virtual Tour  Technically, this is more step 1.5, but bear with me. If you followed step one, the next step is to ask your agent about their marketing strategy — you want someone who has adapted their business to meet how the industry has changed. Are they using video or virtual tours? How are they producing the listing photos, handling showings, etc? Many agents are now offering virtual open houses and tours, and are moving much of the offer process online. This means you can get eyes on your home without having to open your door to strangers. Depending on time, budget, and location you can choose from several options: a simple video your agent takes while performing a walkthrough, 1-on-1 virtual tours with potential buyers, and even 3D renderings of your home.  3. Turn Quarantine Time into DIY Time  Instead of having Netflix ask if you’re still there for the fourth time in a day, use all this time at home to your advantage and tackle some home DIY projects that will give your home the glow-up it deserves.  No need to go overboard, a little spackle and paint will go a long way toward refreshing old doors, walls, and trim that are showing a little wear and tear. Additionally, this is a great time to take care of those pesky maintenance tasks you’ve been neglecting such as cleaning your gutters and washing those hard to reach windows. We offer a full list of things to tackle while you’ve got some extra quarantine time on your hands and much more on our home improvement page.  4. Make a Great First Impression  Anytime you’re selling a home you need to make sure your home has a well maintained exterior — a freshly mowed lawn, a yard free of dead tree limbs, an organized porch free of clutter, etc. While this should always be your goal while selling a home, it’s especially important right now during these coronavirus stricken times because the exterior is the only part of the home a potential buyer can see in person if they drive by. However, they may lose interest in the property if they don’t see what they like on the outside. While most of the home-selling journey has gone digital, that’s not going to stop potential buyers from doing a drive by and checking the place out from the road. First impressions count, so make sure your home has its best foot forward.  5. Spread The Word With Social Media  Ahhh social media. The “tool” that once offered endless scrolling of memes and cat videos has now become an integral part of keeping in touch with friends, family, and loved ones during these times of quarantine.  Leveraging your “friends” online can help spread the word that you’re selling your home and could lead to finding an interested buyer. Now’s the time to post those fabulous photos of your home and the best part is, it’s free! This last step is simple yet effective in increasing attention for your listing. And you never know if one of your friends is looking or knows someone who is. Just make sure to go easy with the filters. No need to “facetune” your master bath.
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Spring Cleaning Tasks You May Be Overlooking

As self-isolation and social distancing stretches on, you may find yourself a bit bored just staying at home. Since there’s a big difference between choosing to stay at home and having to stay at home, even those who enjoy spending time at home may be struggling. This is why many people are starting to look for things that need to be done around the house – if you’re going to be stuck at home every day, you might as well be productive. Fortunately, there are a number of spring-cleaning tasks that can keep you busy for a while. Don’t just dust, vacuum and call it a day, though. Consider tackling the following jobs as well to reduce your future maintenance needs and ensure that you’re ready to face the summer. Clean the Windows (And the Screens) Cleaning the windows is a classic spring-cleaning task, but it’s one of those tasks that’s all too easy to only do halfway. When you clean your windows, be sure to clean both the inside and the outside with a quality glass cleaner. You should also remove the window screens and clean them as well, especially if any of them have dirt or other icky stuff stuck in them after the winter.   Pressure Washing Dirt, mold, mildew and moss can all degrade the materials of your home over time. That’s why it’s a good idea to break out the pressure washer and give your home a good ol’ scrubdown at least once a year. Spring is a good time to do this since it’s usually still a bit too cool for things that grow on your house to get out of hand. While you’ve got the pressure washer out, you should also look to see if there’s anything else around the house that could use a good deep clean. Check out picnic tables, fences and any other spots where dirt and other contaminants might accumulate.   Gutter Cleaning A lot of people view gutter cleaning as a fall task, associating full gutters with fallen leaves. There are a lot of things that can clog up your gutters, though, including debris that gets washed off your roof by spring rain and melting snow. To reduce wear and tear on your gutters and make cleaning them easier overall, make cleaning your gutters into a task that you do at least twice a year, in the spring and fall.   Check Out the AC As things start to warm up, a lot of people prefer to open their windows instead of cranking the air conditioning. You should at least give it a test run to make sure that it’s working properly, though. Clean your AC as best as you can, let it run for a while to make sure that it’s able to maintain the air temperature, and change any filters that need to be changed. If there’s a problem, it’s better to find out now and fix it than discover it in a few months when temperatures peak.   Don’t Forget the Furniture A lot of dusting goes on in the spring, but it’s easy to forget that dust and dirt accumulate on furniture too. Break out the vacuum or a steam cleaner to give your furniture a good cleaning as a part of your spring-cleaning routine. Not only will this keep your furniture looking good and in good shape for longer, but it can also reduce allergies and other health issues within your home.   Test Those Smoke Detectors It’s easy to forget smoke detectors if they aren’t beeping randomly in the middle of the night because they have a low battery. To keep your home safe, though, you should test your smoke detectors and replace their batteries every six months. Spring cleaning time is a great time to do this (and then do it again in the fall when you start preparing your home for winter). Don’t settle for just replacing batteries, either; if a smoke detector doesn’t work or seems to have a larger problem than just dead batteries, replace the entire unit.  
 

Staying Connected With Modern Tech

The world we live in is significantly different than the world we knew just a year ago. Around the world, people face self-isolation and quarantine as we attempt to stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. This can be scary, especially for those who live alone or who have distant loved ones that they’re worried about. Fortunately, we also live in a world where technology can bring us closer together even as we must stay apart. There are a number of ways that modern technology can help us stay connected. While some of these depend on you having the right pieces of hardware, others are software solutions that almost anyone can use. If you’re feeling lonely, here are a few tech solutions that might help bring you closer to friends and loved ones. VoIP Solutions VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and VoIP-like phone services are seeing increasingly widespread use around the world. These services allow you to make voice and even video calls over the internet, letting you stay connected without the need for a landline phone or cellular service. Many of these services allow for text chat as well, and most are available both on a computer and as a smartphone app.   Video Conferencing Software When you need something a bit more robust or sophisticated than what a VoIP solution offers, video-conferencing options like Zoom and GoToMeeting can help. Video conferencing software lets you connect people from multiple locations into a single chat. Most of these solutions allow for video, voice and even text chat, ensuring that people won’t be left out if they lack a webcam or have slow internet service. Some of these options even allow the use of virtual backgrounds, so you can set a favorite photo or other image as a backdrop for your video call as an added bit of fun.   Virtual Vacations To help people around the world have something to do, many zoos, museums and other public spaces have taken to streaming video or offering up other virtual options while they are closed. A family trip that might have been out of the question otherwise can now be simulated by starting up a conference call between multiple households and embarking on the same virtual tour together so that everyone can experience it at the same time.   Community Groups A lot of people already use social media to keep in touch with friends and family who are far away. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, people are turning to sites like Facebook and Twitter to stay connected even to close friends. By setting up private groups or interacting on specific posts, isolated friends can still share stories and humor, post pictures and share status updates, and generally stay up to date on everyone’s well-being.   The Rise of eSports One thing that got a lot of people to pay attention and start taking COVID-19 seriously was when various sports organizations started cancelling their usual events and seasons. In the time since, people have started paying more attention to online gaming competitions and eSports. There a wide range of games that people can watch online and then talk about with friends and family, and some professional athletes have started playing and streaming their games as well. Some race car drivers have even taken to having online races using various video games.   Senior-Friendly Options There are an increasing number of options available to help families stay in touch with seniors. In addition to VoIP software and similar solutions, there are also dedicated hardware devices such as tablets that are designed with senior ease-of-use in mind. These devices coordinate with apps placed on the phones or other devices of family members, giving seniors one-touch access to their families so everyone can stay connected. This also helps families check in with their senior friends and relatives to calm fears that they might be under the weather.   In It Together As you can see, there are several options available to keep in touch even while we have to stay physically distant. This isn’t an exclusive list; you may have additional options available that aren’t covered here. Just remember that no matter what you use, check in with friends and loved ones periodically both to get that much-needed social contact and to ensure that everyone is okay.
 

Activities You Can Do With the Whole Family

With the current state of the world, people are spending more time at home than ever. This provides for some great opportunities to bond as a family, and also gives some of us a bit more time to get things done around the house. Spending more time with your family can lead to some questions, though. One of the biggest is “Exactly what are we supposed to do now that we’re together?” Without the breaks afforded by work, school and other activities, trying to come up with activities for the whole family can seem a bit overwhelming. If you need some ideas on how to spend that family time, here are a few suggestions to get you started. Not only will these ideas help you to spend some quality time together as a family, but some of them might help you with some of those tasks around the house as well! Planning (and Planting) a Garden Even though the year has gotten off to a rocky start, time waits for no one. We’re already getting into gardening season, so it’s time to start prepping the soil and starting your seeds. Since you’ve got the family all there at home, try to get everyone else involved as well. Plan out the size and shape of your garden plot and make a list of everyone’s favorite fruits and veggies to help decide what to plant. You can even get younger kids involved by letting them make row markers featuring pictures of everything you plan to grow.   Family Game Nights Game nights are a classic, but sometimes it can be hard to fit them in. Timing isn’t as much of an issue these days, however, so let’s play some games! These could be anything from board games to multiplayer video games or even tabletop role-playing games. Let the family decide on the specifics and plan out a new game night every week to help keep everyone entertained.   Movie Time Going to the movies is a popular family activity. Just because the theaters are closed doesn’t mean you have to give up on enjoying a film together, though. Make some popcorn, break out some snacks and cue up a favorite film on the TV. Several studios are releasing movies for sale or rental early, and some have even put new releases up for rental on streaming services even though they should still be in a theatrical run, so you can still catch some of the films that you might have planned on seeing as a family anyway.   Plan Some Redecorations Were you hoping to redecorate this spring? You still can, and you can get the family involved in the process as well. Let everyone help pick out paint colors and decorations, especially in their bedroom or other rooms where they spend a significant amount of time. Even if you can’t get everything that you need for the project right now, this will let you plan things out in advance so that you’ll be ready to start once it’s go time.   Activities From a Hat If you aren’t sure what to do, have everyone get together and make a list of three things that you’d like to do as a family. Once you’ve got the lists made, put them all on a hat or other container and draw one of the lists out. Look at the listed items and let the family vote on which activity you’d like to do from the list. If you’re worried that the same person might win too many times, the next time you do it, have the person who won sit out the suggestions and be the one to draw the winning list instead.   Time Alone, Together Sometimes, one of the best things that you can do as a family is just relax and enjoy each other’s company. Don’t assume that you have to fill up every available moment with activities. Take some time to read books, give the kids some screen time or do some other individual downtime activities. You can take this downtime in the same room, spending casual time together without having to be “on” and actively doing things together all the time.  
 

Working side-by-side through COVID-19

It’s not every day that your spouse becomes your coworker or that you celebrate 29 years of marriage during a global pandemic. Enter Mary and Jim Tharp, a couple that we are proud to call our co-workers and work family. And especially during these uncertain times, it is a story like theirs that reminds us that we are all in this together. On March 16, 1991, Mary and Jim Tharp said “I Do” at a little chapel in Mesa, Arizona, and the couple hasn’t strayed far from the roots of where their relationship started. It was in the Grand Canyon state where they first met, at a Judas Priest concert as 18-year-olds, and where they have since raised their two boys, Billy and Anthony.   It’s also the place where their journey with us began. Six years ago, Mary became an employee in our Scottsdale office and has served in various roles, most recently as a chargeback specialist. Last October, Jim decided to make a change in his career by joining us also and now works with our customer agent success team.  As our entire workforce transitioned to a work from home model three weeks ago in light of COVID-19 precautions, Mary and Jim’s dedication to our end users, their co-workers, and each other prevails. Separated by four computer monitors back to back over a shared six-foot table where their dining room table previously was, the couple has converted their dining room into a home office.  Mary looks up to take a break in the action of her workday.And while the two work on different teams and their typical in-office routine consists of breaks and lunch together when possible, they are still making time to engage with each other and co-workers. Sharing on one of our online employee communities, Mary said of their 29th wedding anniversary last week, “If you would have told us when we got married that we would spend today smiling at each other over our combined four monitors, working from home over the internet, we probably would have told you the bar was closed.”  The creativity of their dedicated workspace, having each other, and a spirit of gratitude and humor have all played an important role in Mary and Jim’s resilience during COVID-19. Jim says of the experience, “Sitting across from my wife — I love it.” Referencing a busy house with everyone being home, Jim teases, “When the kids aren’t at work, walking around here, the traffic gets really heavy.” Mary says she is grateful that while she’s working, she can look up anytime and feel grounded that her husband is right across from her. She admits that she recently brought some levity to their home by pranking Jim and was happy to share the story with co-workers. “In an effort to maintain good workplace habits, this morning I opened and closed every drawer in the kitchen, then went into the living room and told Jim there were snacks!” Jokes aside, they share that they miss being shoulder to shoulder with co-workers in the office, but are grateful they can contribute to our end users’ own journey home by working from home. “We want everybody to stay positive, stay upbeat, and stay healthy,” Mary says. Mary and Jim at the wedding of former co-workers, Larry Hopkins and Christy Larkins, who they spend time with regularly.We know that home is everything and during this uncertain time, home is playing an even more critical role in our lives. As we navigate the implications of COVID-19, we hope you draw inspiration from Mary and Jim’s story. At the end of the day, whether we are working side-by-side with our families at home, connecting with those we hold dear from digital devices, or supporting each other just further apart, we will get through this. See you on the other side. For the latest tips navigating COVID-19 from home and all things real estate, visit our News & Insights portal. 
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What You Need to Know About Cleaning for Coronavirus

There has been a significant amount of concern raised recently about COVID-19, a relatively recently discovered disease caused by a type of virus known as a coronavirus. A lot is still unknown about the virus and the disease that it causes, and this is causing some people a great deal of anxiety about it. Major conferences and events are being canceled, people are buying up supplies (even if they shouldn’t), and the internet is filled with memes teaching people how to wash their hands. COVID-19 has the potential to be a serious illness. Here’s some info that can help you to protect yourself, especially if you’re confused by some of the contradicting advice that you might have seen online. What Is COVID-19? Even though it’s mostly referred to simply as “coronavirus”, the virus that causes COVID-19 is actually a novel coronavirus that’s been designated “SARS-CoV-2” and sometimes referred to as “2019-nCoV.” COVID-19 itself is a potentially severe respiratory illness that typically presents with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. While most people who become infected with COVID-19 recover, the disease can be severe and even fatal. Those at greatest risk from COVID-19 are individuals older than 60 years of age and those with preexisting conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.   Decluttering to Prevent Illness If you want to clean up to try and prevent coronavirus infection, a good first step is to declutter your home. This will eliminate surfaces where the virus could linger, making it easier to disinfect your home and keep it clean. Decluttering can also have a positive effect on mental health and anxiety levels, which can improve your overall wellbeing and even provide a bit of a boost to the immune system.   Disinfecting Surfaces The US Centers for Disease Control recommend disinfecting surfaces with regular household disinfectant wipes and sprays. While many of these have not been tested specifically for use against SARS-CoV-2, they are effective against some other common coronaviruses and are likely to at least reduce infectiousness if not kill the virus completely. Other household cleaners and disinfecting practices are also likely to be at least partially effective.   Handwashing Stations One of the best defenses against COVID-19 is good handwashing practices. As such, make sure that you have soap available by every sink and clean towels ready for use after washing your hands. Printing out a guide to proper handwashing and placing it near your sinks can also be a good idea, especially if you have young children who are still learning how to wash their hands properly. If you have any, having hand sanitizer accessible for times when you can’t wash your hands is also helpful.   Don’t Panic Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t panic. Don’t stockpile supplies that you don’t need, buy sensible amounts of the things that you do need, and take reasonable steps like avoiding large crowds and not shaking hands. One of the best ways to stay safe from COVID-19 is to keep yourself clean, keep your home clean and apply some common sense to your preparations for the disease.
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